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Gideons International (Bible distribution) just sent me a 2013 calendar. So did PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). This week, I also got address labels and/or appeals for donations from:
Handicap International (Children injured by landmines),
Souls Harbour Rescue Mission (Christmas Dinner for Homeless),
Council of Canadians (Don’t Frack with our Water),
Operation Smile (Cleft lip and palette surgery in third world countries),
Speroway (Christmas for starving children),
Smile Train (another cleft palette/lip surgery organization in third world countries),
2012 Annual Christmas Seal Campaign (Lung diseases),
Nature Conservancy (Natural habitat preservation in Canada), and
Inter Pares (Canadian social justice organization).
I applaud the work of all of them. I wish I could give them each a million dollars. At the same time, I’m bugged by the fact that one of the ways of raising funds is by selling my address to other causes so that my mailbox is always full, especially at this time of year.
"Big deal," you might say. "How hard can it be to recycle all that paper?"
That’s no problem. I generally open the envelopes, take out the pieces that identify me and shred them and dump the rest into the recycling basket unshredded.
It’s not that either.
A bigger problem is that the photos of homeless men and women, children in rags with cleft lips and palettes, abused animals and children missing limbs all cry out with such loud voices for help that I feel guilt every time I consign one more appeal to the shredder.
There’s something wrong with the entire picture. How much did PETA spend, for instance, to mail me a calendar I absolutely don’t need? How much does it cost to make up a sheet of address labels and a bunch of stickers and mail them to me? If I sent them each $10.00, would that cover their cost?
It’s all done on margin. I once did a calculation of the economics of a charitable lottery. Although I didn’t know how much was paid to the company for running that fundraiser, the cost of the prizes (estimated) could easily be compared with the number and price of the tickets. By a conservative estimate, a purchase of a ticket by me for $100.00 would have netted the charity no more than $20.00! Probably less. (I might have won a house I couldn't afford to live in.)
Canadians my age donate an average of $592.00 to charity annually. The median annual donation is $200.00, which means that most donating is done by a minority of Canadians while a whole host give virtually nothing, or at least, very little. There are obviously good reasons for low donations among the poor, that goes without saying, but in churches, the statistics that suggest that 80% of donations come from 20% of members and v.v. is a telling statistic. A few are generous, more are not.
In my humble opinion, health research, nature conservancy, animal protection, etc. should be funded through our tax system. The progressive income tax and the goods and services taxes are probably the most equitable ways to distribute the load among the population. Take the Kidney Foundation, for instance. Why should the work they do require them to go through a wasteful fundraising process to get the necessary dollars to carry on their work? Why should any charitable organization feel forced to bribe me into giving money by sending me address labels and calendars that I absolutely don’t want in order to “guilt” me into giving.
Let’s raise our taxes a bit and look after each other the way we ought to.