Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Charitable Giving Dilemma

Sifting through my mail on Saturday, I couldn't help feeling overwhelmed and even a little ganged up on. Here's what was in my box:

  • An urgent contribution form from Planned Parenthood
  • A request for money from my county library system foundation
  • A letter from the art museum wanting me to pay more to upgrade my membership
  • An invitation from a group I volunteer with asking for $50 to attend a fund-raising dinner
  • An invitation to renew my membership at a gym I haven't belonged to in a year because I joined a gym closer to home
  • A letter urging me to become a member of the Sierra Club by paying a membership fee
  • An urgent contribution form from the Democratic Party
Seven requests for money all in one day! Seven good causes clamoring for my attention and dollars!

It was with some feelings of angst that I threw out all but one. (Well, actually, I had no feelings of guilt or anxiety about tossing the gym membership renewal. If the company that ran the gym hadn't closed the facility near me, I wouldn't have joined a different gym in the first place. Besides, gym membership, though certainly beneficial to me, isn't exactly a charitable cause.)

I feel sorry for all the good causes out there. I'm sure they're stretched thin for dollars in these bad economic times. Unfortunately, so are many of us! I hate being constantly bombarded with requests for money, and I have to wonder if some of these organizations couldn't realize some savings by sending out less frequent mailings--say only once or twice a year instead of every few weeks?

To save my sanity, I've decided to follow advice I read somewhere about concentrating charitable giving on just a few causes. I've picked the causes that are most personal and local, and/or are related to my interest in literacy. (Though I also contribute to the American Red Cross when there's a large natural disaster.) Using my criteria, the one request I kept to consider this time?: The dinner for the local group I volunteer with.

How do you make decisions about charitable giving?

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