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Why Can't Beggars Just Be Honest?

by Ian on May 27, 2011

Today I received a letter with a "Par Avion Air Mail" stamp on it at work which of course made me interested about the contents. It turns out that it was a fundraising letter from the American Life League with a letter inside purportedly written by the president, Judie Brown.

I may have mentioned before that I abhor dishonest fundraising letters. This fake air mail was a new bit of dishonesty that goes along with the "official surveys", "certified mail", fake handwriting, guilt trips with Chinese trinkets cutesy post scripts and letters that are written by paid organizations instead of the person who actually supposedly wrote them.

If you want my money, just come out and say it. Don't lie to me.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

mary d 3 May 27, 2011 at 10:11 am

In the spirit of Christian charity,maybe you should have addressed this in a letter or phone call to A.L.L. instead of in this column .

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Ian May 27, 2011 at 10:38 am

Oh, I have addressed this directly to them in the past. They never responded.

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Rebecca May 27, 2011 at 10:28 am

I understand that! It really bothers me when a charity claims that 99% of their funds go to their cause and then they send letters every week and rosaries, etc. once a month, and then follow up letters to ask if I received their items. “Who are you kidding?” Those type of charities I will not donate to and I discourage others to do so.

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Terrye Newkirk May 27, 2011 at 10:51 am

I used to feel just the same–until I worked for a non-profit Catholic organization, half of whose funding came from direct donations. I learned that (a) direct mail is the most effective and cost-conscious means of fundraising, and (b) it’s only necessary to get a small percentage of responses to cover costs AND bring in substantial donations.

No need to feel guilty if you don’t choose to contribute; that’s your choice. And you are not obliged to return unsolicited “gifts.” The crucifix on my dashboard came in just such a “begging” letter, I don’t recall from whom.

Just realize that most of these organizations are simply trying to fund their ministries in the best way possible. Do your research. Be generous with those who are doing good work, if you can. Or not. But please don’t besmirch their reputations without having the facts.

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julie f May 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Agreed. There is a charity in my town that is very high profile; it’s a Catholic organization but it’s very widely supported as a major area charity. And yet the letters I get from them are always pitched at the most extreme tone of voice – fake letters just like you describe, “I’m bent over my desk here at midnight sweating over these bills, I don’t know how we’re going to pay them.” Now, I don’t doubt that they need the money, but getting one of these overwrought letters every other week gets grating. Combined with decades of good work, glossy promotional materials, and city-wide promotions, if they’re having trouble keeping the lights on I’m shocked.

The Chinese rosaries make me sad too. I send $10 to just about everyone that asks (until my monthly budget runs out) and I appreciate the straightforward “here’s what we do, please send money” letters so much. The fakey heartstrings crap puts me on my guard which is not how I like to approach charitable giving. The straightforward letters let me think about how I and various groups make up the diverse body of the Church, addressing the many needs of the world. The other stuff has me trying to figure out whether it’s a worthwhile, “real” charity or a scam.

When it comes down to it, I write the check regardless of whether I “liked” the letter but I can’t imagine the saccharine stuff is really that much more lucrative of a tactic.

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