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Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Grinch Of Reality

‘Tis the season that many people become more charitable.
‘Tis also the season that many charities prey upon susceptible people.
I’ve never agreed with the folks who think about helping others at specific times of the year. You know of whom I write.
You know – the folks that want to give out food baskets during Thanksgiving and at Christmas. Heck, people are hungry year ‘round. Having served with the “Feed Your Neighbor” program, the Old Newsboys Goodfellows Association, and other charitable organizations, and having worked in the social work field for many years, not to mention having been raised in a poor family that received food through the now defunct government surplus food commodities program for the needy, trust me, I know. And if there were not enough ‘hand-me-down’ clothes for all of us as kids, we went to the thrift shop for the rest of our clothing needs.
Incidentally, the Feed Your Neighbor program is a 100% charity that helps feed people all year round. The Old Newsboys Goodfellows is also a 100% charity that helps out with coats, gloves, shoes, etc. all year long, not just during the holiday season.
I really do not understand the folks who seem to want to help the “less fortunate” only during Christmas with things other than food – things like toys. Oh yeah, that’s really going to help with food, clothing. and shelter!
Then there are the people who come to the rescue during a crisis such as a death or medical operation or whatever. Then all the individual fund raisers pop up all over the place just to help the impacted individual or family.
Not too long ago, there were a slew of benefit fund raisers and other solicitation efforts to assist the widow and two children of a murder victim. There was so much money raised, it was overflowing. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But I questioned it then and I question it now. Why? Because the widow and children received an extremely large amount of money from insurance and other death benefit policies and programs, as well as a sizable survivors’ pension that financially they entered the realm of the wealthy. What about all the other family survivors out there that receive nothing?
There are recipients of individual charitable efforts who actually wind up far better off financially after the efforts than before the efforts and who then have more money than most moderate income families. I draw the line at the point where the recipient can now drive the new fancy car, dine out at fancy restaurants, have all the latest fancy electronic gizmos, visit the casinos, and so on. I’ve seen that happen on several occasions.

Now if you haven’t already gotten all upset with me, let me say this:
I am strongly in favor of helping those who are in need of help. And, I have done so throughout my life. I am a believer in charitable efforts and causes. And, I have been active in those efforts and causes throughout my life.

So, what is my message? Simple. Help all you can throughout the year and throughout your life.

Before you start giving to this cause or that cause, and to this charity or that charity, make sure of a few things by getting answers to some questions, such as:
Is the cause legitimate?
If the cause is legitimate, are there other resources already available?
Is the charity a legitimate charity?
How much of the donations and contributions to the charity actually reach the intended recipients?

---- Are you getting the picture?

With all the means that are available nowadays, I suggest that you research charity ratings as a way to identify legitimate charities. There are several ways you can research charities on the internet.
Below are some of the more common websites that can help you:

Charity Navigator, Your Guide To Intelligent Giving
Charity Guide, Charity Ratings: Donate To A Good Charity, Not Just To A Good Cause
American Institute of Philanthropy, Helping You Give Wisely To Charity, Most (And Least) Efficient Charities
US National For Charities and Donors, Better Business Bureau, Start With Trust., BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Investigate Before You Donate


Lisa Renee said...

Thanks for this post Roland, I've wondered the same thing related to the giving only at the holiday season and the particular situation to the widow and her two children. Especially since I know first hand there are other families out there who have lost a parent who are struggling, who will not have a pension or insurance benefits to rely on and there was no outpouring of community support. It struck me at the time at the inequity that exists in who receives help and who does not.

I give to organizations that help year round, locally the food bank and nationally America's Harvest following the message of "need knows no season".

Roland Hansen said...

It's unfortunate that more people do not realize that true need is year-round and affects a great many who receive no attention or assistance.

Lisa Renee said...

It is unfortunate, it's unrealistic to think that people only need help one time a year. Yet, I think some people only donate at the holidays to try to remove any feeling of guilt they might have for forgetting the other 364 days of the year...