I can’t begin to accurately count the number of letters, telephone calls, and other means of solicitation that we get every week for a charitable cause. One of the major evaluation organizations, Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), evaluates more than 10,000 charities and that doesn’t count the thousands that aren’t listed with them. (You can also contribute to them, but that’s business reality, not irony.) I do check with them when I receive one of those calls from a group that sounds legitimate, but that I am unfamiliar with. While I prefer charities that keep their administrative costs at 10% or less, I’m okay with up to 20% in some cases, but when I see an organization where well over 50% goes to administration and fundraising, that’s a red flag for me. And officially registered charities are only part of the causes that seek funds – there are the local organizations that exist in every community no matter the size and that doesn’t count if you belong to a religious group that has a tithe or other contribution expectation.
Even major, multi-million dollar philanthropic organizations cannot accomodate all the requests they receive and ordinary people certainly cannot. While I intensely dislike the professional fundraising tactic of constantly asking for more money no matter how much you send, I also understand that is a part of today’s environment. Each of us must decide how we want to spend our charitable dollars and find the ability to politely, but firmly decline the others and particularly ask to be removed from the list. That isn’t necessarily effective, but I have gotten to where I maintain a list of those charities that I have asked to be removed from. Let me for the moment set aside my utter contempt for anyone who runs charity scams and focus instead on those thousands of worthy causes that I simply cannot support. I genuinely try to be polite in these cases because I get it, I do, but I have the criteria that we have developed and we stick to it. All I ask in return is that if I am polite, that the attempt to “guilt me” stops. Once I have said, “No, please remove me from your list,” then I expect an in-kind response. I also recognize that the person on the other end may well have a spot in the script that says, “If the person declines, then say…..”, which is why I politely say no one more time, insist that we be removed from the list and that goes on my list. That way, if the organization calls again, I check the list at the beginning of the call and terminate the call before the pitch is finished.
I try to divide our contributions so that we provide a lot locally as well because we believe in supporting community as much as possible. It is difficult to say no to worthy causes, but the truth is that most of us can only contribute so much. So please, when I say no, understand that it is not necessarily that I don’t think your cause is a good one.