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tin can charities

by michele at 09:54 AM on February 19, 2002

So there I am in 7-11 this morning, making a small purchase of milk and a buttered roll. I get to the counter and notice a bunch of cardboard shamrocks laid out, with a slew of markers next to them. This set up is familiar. They had it at my bank, at the grocery store, at every deli within a 6 mile radius. So I know what's coming. I avoid the gaze of the man at the register. Doesn't matter. He starts his spiel anyhow.

"Buy a Shamrock for Muscular Dystrophy?"
"I already bought 5 at my bank," I say. And this is true. I bought 5, for a dollar a piece, took the markers and wrote "in memory of" and the names of five firefighters in the blank spaces provided.
"Well this isn't the bank. Buy some from here." He looks menacing. He looks like an ex-marine.
"Listen," I say. "I already donated 5 dollars to the cause. Does it matter which place I gave it at?"
He glowers and throws my change down on the counter. I leave, knowing this isn't the last time it will happen.

Two weeks ago it was hearts at K-Mart. Before that there were snowflakes at Friendly's and Christmas ornaments at the diner. There's the supermarket cashier who tells you that she can automatically add a dollar to your order to your order and it will be donated to the hungry kids of America and the veterans who sit outside shopping malls selling pins.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against giving to charities. I do it often. I just don't want to be bombarded with it all the time. I don't want to be made to feel guilty if I don't give to every single person that approaches me. You go into any deli, and the counter is lined with tin cans plastered with pictures of dying animals and sick kids. And sure, I feel bad for sick kids. But yesterday there was a donation can at the bagel place with a picture of sad-looking Jeremy, who is suffering from cancer. Call me a cynic, but Jeremy look suspiciously like little Todd from the diner who is dying of a rare genetic disorder, who in turn is the spitting image, down to the dirty Pokemon t-shirt, of little Bradley at the smoke shop who has leukemia. Oddly enough, if you put a pink dress on Bradley, he could be the twin of little Gretchen who wants your donations for the homeless shelter. And don't get me started on the animals. That can with the sickly, mangy looking cat and dog? I'll donate money to them only if it's for pet euthanasia, because those animals don't look like they really want to be alive.

The proliferation of money boxes and tin cans and seasonal cardboard cut outs has had a negative effect on me. I choose not to look at the faces of the kids on the cans. I choose not to cry over the disease ridden animals or hear the cry of the endangered water rat. I'll give when I can, and to whom I want to give to. Don't get all up in my face about it, or I'll start checking out the donation cans on your counter and tracking down where that money really goes to.

comments (8)

I'm not aware of any specific studies (so maybe I should keep my trap shut), but I can't imagine these tactis to be largely successful.

Being bombarded by images may "push" you one way or another when buying laundry detergent, generating more revenue for Dow.

Being bombarded of images of dying kids just makes me sad, and not in that "here, have my money" kind of way, but in the "I just want to find a hole to crawl in and cry" kind of of way.

by mg at February 19, 2002 10:11 AM

Let's not forget those "nurses" outside the grocery and on the corner in 100 cities, whose money goes to some mysterious "charity" that manages, by newspaper accounts to feed approximately 10 people a day. In Los Angeles.

Or how about the Red Cross? Where *is* my 9/11 donation? Illinois you say? Office supplies?

Why can't I just give little Jenny $1 for her troop instead of buying $3.50 in cookies, for which her troop will get 50 cents? Why won't Jenny and her mom take my dollar?

by Nancy at February 19, 2002 11:04 AM

and what about those people that camp outside the supermarket and ambush every shopper with some guilt-trip about homelessness or drug addicts or whatever they're trying to save? if i'm going to give i'm NOT going to hand it to someone in a parking lot.

the pressure tactics should backfire. but apparently they work, because this keeps happening.

by kd at February 19, 2002 11:40 AM

I was in London this past weekend, tired and thirsty we decided to take a break and sit outside at a cafe where i was accosted by a couple of gypsies demanding money. I looked at them smiling sweetly at me using all their persuasive charms when i noticed that they had row upon row of gold teeth, i just couldn't take them seriously. When i refused to hand over any cash they decided my slice of cake would do....the cheek!

by emma at February 19, 2002 12:10 PM

Oh Man, never give money at those things. First of all - they keep your money. The way it works is like this: 7-11 or other Big Evil Corporation (in my case it was Barnes & Noble) collects all this money, say it's $8 million. This allows Big Evil Corporation to have a big party and press conference, where they garner a huge PR boon by having the CEO hand over one of those giant joke checks to the head of the chairity for $5 million dollars. This is money they would donate any way to get the tax break. The extra $3 million is eaten up by "administrative costs." You know, all those execs at the Big Evil Corporation and the chairity who make the 6-figure salaries for "running the programe" (they even deduct the costs of promoting and throwing the PR event and party.)
So basically, you've donated money to a big company to help them get a bigger tax break. You've donated to overpaid middle-management within companies and beaurocratic major charities (Notice they are never for small. local grass-root organisations. The "President" of the United Way here in Dallas earns $260,000 per year.) The way the tax laws are written the companies would donate any way - because it actually SAVES them money. The customer donations just help to bump up the amount and make a more impressive PR event. I'm sure it ends up doing some good, but there are better ways to donate.

by Charles at February 19, 2002 10:09 PM

Heck, all I want to know is, "I'm in that situation. I might not be dying (but who knows, because you have to have health insurance to check to see if I need treatments, unless it's something more obvious), but I'm on a zero-income situation. I'm struggling," where is MY piece of all this charity action? I gave. I gave some here, I gave some there, I gave to the causes. Where's the charity _going_ if not to people like me?

by MT Fierce at February 20, 2002 11:53 PM

For the last 27 years, i worked, paid my bills on time, saved money instead of blowing it on junk,,,basically set priorities. Yes, it's not always fun living within ones means, while everyone else is out partying, and you're sitting at home because you choose to put the $20 in the rainy-day fund.

Sooner or later, the party ends, and yes i feel sorry for the people who squandered their resources and their youth, and now at 50-something have the flu and no money to buy tissues and no place to "rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Problem is, one is smart to be very, very, very careful about lending a hand, because more often than not, no matter how much you do for some people, it will never be enough.

by ol' chick at October 23, 2003 10:51 PM

Do any of you cynics have a better idea on how to raise money for charity when there are no longer tax dollars available and donors are tired of being approached?

With regard to Charles' message above - Maybe you SHOULD do some research about where these donations are going. You will find that the majority of events celebrating funds raised, are sponsored. This means, none of the donations collected are used to pay for those events.

The number one reason people don't give is because they haven't been asked. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

by Heidi at November 10, 2005 4:51 PM

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