Cold Charity

A few weeks ago, I was at a retirement dinner at a smart restaurant with a large party of people.

There was a card on the table from an organisation called Dineaid. The idea is that $2 is added to the bill for each table, and the money goes to food banks and City Missions to help out at Christmas.

Oh well. The total table cost would have been hundreds of dollars and it’s only another $2. No big deal.

But of course – that is what you are supposed to think.

Charity

There was a time when it was easy to choose your favourite charities and to avoid the others. Walking past a street collector without stopping was not difficult. But these days, street appeals are not as lucrative as before. So, charities have a new and very clever tactic. Nowadays, local businesses do all the work for them. Dineaid is a good example of this. The restaurant does all the administration, collects the money and pays it over. The food banks just sit back while the cash rolls in.

And the same happens at Briscoes, at Farmers, who ask you for a dollar to be added to your purchase for some charity or other. The business does the marketing, collects the cash and pays it over. The charities have to do little or nothing to collect funds these days.

Clever stuff.

Added to that is the strategy to make people feel as guilty as possible. Think Dineaid again. The strategy is, you’ve just had a lovely meal at a smart restaurant, now give $2 to people who can’t afford what you have just had, and you will be a better person.

But worse than that, how easy is it to say no to someone looking you in the face and asking you to add two dollars to your bill for a worthy cause? If you say no,you look mean. Most people don’t want to appear mean, so they donate.

And remember the strategy, it is only a dollar or two. Nothing really, is it? You can afford that.

Saying no can be hard. When I first went into business, I used to get a lot of unsolicited calls from charities. In the early days, I gave them money. But once they know you are a sucker, well, you get bombarded with requests. So I had to learn to say no very fast. It was harassment, and now, I hardly donate anything at all. And, the charities have brought this on themselves.

And then there is the politics. I am strongly against donating to any charity that has a political arm and these days, that is most of them. If I am going to give money, I want it to go to people who need help. And why would I donate to a political cause that is the polar opposite of my own position? I believe in fiscal responsibility, not a free for all. And most charities simply hate conservative Governments who are the very sort of Governments that I support. I might as well donate to the Green Party and that’s never going to happen.

Charities always want your regular donations via a credit card, but once they have got the number, it can be difficult to stop the payments. They claim that donations via a credit card saves them money. I don’t see how this can possibly be true. I can only assume that the reason behind this is because paying them from your bank account gives you, the donor, more control over the payments and the charities don’t want that.

We all know doing good work doesn’t come cheap. But sometimes, I really wish charities would be just a bit more grateful for the support that they do get rather than just guilt tripping people all the time.

And then there is the sheer arrogance shown by many charitable organisations. The case of the donations of tinned tomatoes being rebuffed was a disgraceful example of such ingratitude. I never expect charities to tell donors what to donate – I always assume they will be grateful for anything that comes their way. But not so. ‘Something Christmassy’ was one suggestion and this didn’t go down particularly well with those of us who think we are providing the necessities of life to those that need it. Last time I looked, mince pies and boxes of chocolates were not part of the list of staples that help to keep people alive. But the world must have changed and I hadn’t noticed.

Another example of arrogance and ingratitude is the charities that distribute toys for children at Christmas. They insist that the toys have to be brand new. I agree that the behaviour of some people is disgraceful, donating badly damaged or soiled items but even second-hand items in really good condition will not be accepted. If I was a child with no Christmas gifts, I probably wouldn’t know the difference. But no. Not acceptable. Another example of charities overstepping the mark, and alienating donors along the way.

And then there is a friend of mine who was stopped in the street by someone from Save the Children. She offered to make a one-off donation and was told no. She was talked into signing up for a monthly contribution and was told it would be no problem to cancel the payments. But she has to call the charity to do it. And guess what? The person who deals with that is never in the office. Funny that…..  So, she will never agree to something like this again. She’ll cancel it eventually and the loss is entirely the charities own fault.

Sometimes I think that charities forget that donating is voluntary. They behave as if they have some divine right to your money.  When the media shows videos of homeless people being fed Christmas dinner by the City Mission, remember that the money came from Dineaid, or City Mission donations, or from supermarket donations. And these donations are made by hardworking people who pay their taxes, look after their families and have a generosity of spirit. But that generosity is slowly being eroded away, one ridiculous demand at a time.  And it is the charities themselves that are doing it.


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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