One of the odd things about being retired is that you constantly receive dunning phone calls and email messages from charities. Yes, our phones are listed on the National Do Not Call Registry but that doesn’t stop the constant requests for donations.
Dunning for Dollars
Charities can still dial through, as can companies with which you have done business. In this election year, if you have filled out a survey or signed a petition, you will also get requests from candidates, Political Action Committees and parties. Even military veterans, the police and fire departments call looking for money to support their activities. And that doesn’t count what comes in the mail.
These organizations must think we’re all millionaires just shuttling around in our private jets from one vacation home to another. We have nothing better to do than drink fine wines and nibble on fresh-baked cheese gougères. Not so much.
So, the question I constantly ask is this: Do charities think that retired people as a group live like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates? Or do they think all senior citizens are marginally demented easy marks? Do they count on us confusing dunning for dollars with actual bills we need to pay? And if it’s the latter, how reputable are charities that harass senior citizens with their constant demands?
Drawing the Line with Charities
- Do I choose among charities to cure diseases: heart disease, cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, autism, etc.? Or do I select the public services charity that most appeals to me: United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.?
- Do I favor military veterans over the police and fire departments that protect my home and my life but that I pay with my property taxes?
- Do children in need of food or medical care tug on my heartstrings more than abused animals or endangered species?
A Flock of Seagulls
And so on. My answer is simple. I give money to no one. I made that decision primarily because I know that giving money to any organization will triple or quadruple the requests from other groups—or worse. They rent lists from one another and just one donation will result in a cascade of phone calls and messages from new charities.
This all reminds me of seagulls: feed one and a flock will descend upon you with their strong wings and sharp beaks. They will make you regret that one piece of bread you dropped to the ground or flung into the air. Given the chance, they will drive you from your lunch and eat it themselves.
I wish I had enough money to spread around and make a real difference for humanity. Unfortunately, I do not. Also, I worked hard all my life and would rather enjoy myself now than give away my money just for the asking. Besides, who knows what charities really do with the money you donate? Some charities use most of the money to fund huge “administrative costs,” which means a CEO and top management with high-end salaries. Who wants to pay for that?
I feel sorry for people who fall for the religious scam and eat cat food so they can support a rich-and-famous lifestyle for some celebrity preacher who actually does have a private jet and multiple homes. I hope there is a special place in hell for men and women who bilk vulnerable seniors in the name of God. These preachers do not call me. If they did, they would get an earful.
How do you know which charities actually put the money they raise to good use and which spend donations largely on themselves? Check them on these two sites:
- Charity Watch: This organization rates 625 charities. It tells us how efficiently a charity uses donations to fund the programs you want to support.
- Charity Navigator: They evaluate 9,902 charities. Their ratings measure “how efficiently a charity will use their support, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time, and their level of commitment to accountability and transparency.”
Call me cheap. Go ahead; I don’t care. If I did have money worthy of Bezos, Gates or Musk, I would not spend it on private planes, multiple homes, yachts, fancy cars (well, maybe just one), designer handbags, private islands or other fripperies. I would use it to do things that really matter to me—and that would matter to the world.
My Personal To-Do List
I would start with these five things:
- Fund the DNA testing of the 400,000 untested rape kits in the country to find serial rapists and rapist/murderers and bring them to justice.
- Fund various systems and products for cleaning plastic waste out of our oceans and test each one for maximum effectiveness. Then deploy the best product in the oceans’ floating garbage patches to protect marine life from human wastefulness and carelessness.
- Make major donations to Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to support women who are being sexually harassed with the legal aid they need.
- Back the Planetary Defense System to prevent asteroids from hitting Planet Earth and creating an extinction-level event.
- Create a high-tech system for tracking serial killers across state lines so they can’t hide by moving from one state to another.
I’m sure I could find more ways to spend billions and billions of dollars to do things that really matter. Also, I know that, if I had billions, more charities would find me and I would have to hire an administrative assistant to turn them away all day.
My Bottom Line for Charities
Here’s my bottom line: don’t call me, email me, send me snail mail or knock on my front door asking for money. Unless you are the local Little League trying to get to All-State Finals, Girl Scouts selling cookies, or middle-school kids planning a field trip, you won’t get it. Local kids taking initiative will always get a few bucks.
Don’t try to guilt me into handing money to a hungry horde of online and telephone beggars. It won’t work.
Stop picking on senior citizens and find another way to make the money you need or want. Get creative. Oh, and don’t pay your CEO an outrageous salary. That never helps.
- The Charity Checkout Trap — Susanne Skinner
- The Wounded Warrior Project: Charity or Investment Bank — Susanne Skinner