2008-11-23 An Open Letter to Charities

This rant ran in the Chicago Tribune on the op-ed page on Sunday 2008-11-23

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My wife and I try to give a reasonable portion of our income to charity. There are so many deserving and needy causes, but, alas, we cannot afford to help them all. So about a decade ago we made a list of those we admire most, decided how much we can afford to give, and in December, wrote checks to them all.

We have kept up the practice, and like any good budget, we try to stick to it. The charities we give to usually thank us with a nice letter, and, at the same time, try to squeeze more juice from the stone, a gesture we think of as a bit rude. If you give your child a cowboy hat and he asks for boots, and then a horse, you tell him "just say thank you, junior".

But they kept on begging throughout the year, and then they sold our name to others who also put the touch on us. So a few years ago we wrote a form letter and enclosed it with our check.

Some of you may think we are heartless, but choices must be made. Some of you may think this is a good idea. If you do, feel free to copy this letter from the Tribune's website.

Dear Charitable Organization:

Enclosed is our annual check. Please spend it wisely. We believe in your cause and we are pleased to support you and about 20 other carefully selected charities with a modest donation at the end of each year. That's when we look at our financial condition most closely and decide what we can afford to give and to whom.

We hope you will use our gift wisely. We will continue to donate to your cause each year, but only under the following conditions. If you cannot adhere to these three simple rules, we will remove you from our gift list.

1) Please do not waste our donation by sending us multiple solicitations throughout the year. Especially the sales pitches with return address stickers and calendars enclosed or nickels glued to them. All that printing, collating, and postage is expensive. You are already on our list and you will get whatever we can afford after we pay our bills and share what's left with other worthy causes. If you waste our money by begging us for more, you will get none.

2) Please do not call us on the phone. We consider this home invasion. Your call always is an interruption. As a matter of principle, we never respond to phone solicitations of any sort. We know most charities share info with other charities, and the last thing we want is for the word to get out that we are easy marks for phone calls. So just hang up before we do.

3) We know selling donor lists is an important source of revenue for many organizations, but you are not authorized to sell our name, address, phone number, email, or any other info about us. We consider this a breach of our our relationship with you, not to mention our privacy. We hate charities who kiss and tell. Besides, it is a waste of the other organizations' money to solicit us. We know what we believe in and what we wish to support. We select the causes we support all by ourselves.

If you adhere to these terms you can count on us for a check every year as long as we have jobs. If you violate these terms, we will remove you from our list and make no further donations. So please take all the money from this check and put it to work on fixing the problems you are devoted to fixing and don't waste it asking us for more.

Keep up the good work, Meathead

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