‘Tis the season – not just the Advent or Christmas season, but the time when charitable organizations pull out all the stops to solicit donations before the end of the year.
And it started well before “Giving Tuesday,” the follow-up to “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday,” and “Cyber Monday.”
Don’t get me wrong – I work for two charitable organizations and support both with monthly donations. I tithe through my church and other Christian organizations (yes, that’s still a thing for some of us fogies).
Our tax returns last year showed reportable gifts to 21 different charitable organizations, and that’s not counting things like grocery donations for food banks and buying Girl Scout cookies or Boy Scout popcorn.
I believe generosity is a good thing and I understand the need for charitable organizations to raise money through donations: the trouble is, there’s no end to groups seeking support. We get solicitations from all over the country, many of them from organizations we’ve never even heard of.
Don’t even get me started on what happens if you ever contribute to a political candidate or organization. Even after attempting to “unsubscribe” several times over, I still get several “Emergency!” requests daily.
The physical mailings that bug me most, I think, come in large envelopes stuffed with unsolicited “gifts” apparently put together by the same third-party fundraiser. They may include cheap ink pens, thin-paper greeting cards or Christmas cards, gift labels, calendars, annual planners, and even items like little dream catchers or gift bags – sometimes all of the above.
It’s a psychological game of engendering obligation: “We’ve sent something to you, now you should send something to us.”
But I’m not falling for it. I didn’t ask for a mailbox full of uninvited stuff, even if it claims to be from children. In any case, I suspect any money I sent would probably line the pockets of the for-profit fundraiser who passes on a fraction to the charity – and adds my name to several other mailing lists.
Some organizations I do support include small items in their solicitations, but they’re generally limited to little note pads or return address labels.
The note pads can be useful, but it’s the address labels that get me, no matter who they’re from: who needs a boatload of return address labels when most of our bills are on autopay and hand-written letters have fallen victim to digital texts, emails, or online messaging systems?
I suppose folks who send lots of Christmas cards or newsletters might get some use out of them, but that’s not our thing.
I still add a return address for the increasingly few bills or donations that require checks, but in all my life, I don’t recall getting a single bill payment or personal letter marked “return to sender.”
I suppose the solicitors hope I’ll use at least one of the labels to mail a check to them, but most of them end up gathering dust. They’re just the right length to use as tape in gift-wrapping, but that would be too tacky, even for me.
Most of the return address labels will return to the earth by way of a landfill. With the glue and the foil, I’m sure recyclers wouldn’t appreciate them.
My grousing is more good-natured than ill-tempered: if nothing else, the scads of labels bearing my name and address gave me the idea for a column, and that brings me back to the subject behind all this verbage: giving.
Liberality is a wonderful attribute and a rewarding experience. When we contribute to well-run organizations that are doing important work, we know that we are a part of that work. I believe that giving is also a responsibility, whether it is to hungry individuals or social services or uplifting organizations like Good Faith Media that provide helpful information, inspiring content, and challenging commentary for our times.
It really is the season for giving – not just for those who will reciprocate or for those who already have more than they need, but for the needy people and constructive organizations working to make our world a better place.
“Giving Tuesday” might be past, but opportunities still await.