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The charitable spirit

By TJ Ray

$1.65. Now that may not seem like a lot of money to you, but it took me five months to get there.

The last dime came yesterday, a bright new ten-cent coin. Of course, with it came a nice sheet of mailing labels, neatly printed with my name and home address. At the moment, I probably have a couple of thousand such labels. Some of them have cute animals, some have patriotic flag, some have American Indian signs.

The most generous donation to my retirement fund was a crisp $1.00 bill that came with a Nielson research group survey. All they asked was that I make a note of every TV show I watched for a week, after which they would send me $10. I did, and they did.

Since then, I’ve gotten two more surveys from them, but I decided to send them back unopened—and it’s hard to turn down that much money.

From now on I’m going to keep a record of which groups ask for a donation and what inducement comes with their solicitation. My guess is that somewhere there is a company that sells lists of names and addresses to organizations. Some of them subtly indicate that you might already be a member. If not, perhaps you’ll renew your membership.

The letters and labels come from animal and human charities. Well, they come from folks acting like charities. In fact, I question whether some of them are legitimate or not.

In a couple of cases, I have gone ahead and written a small check and indicated that I do not wish to be contacted again for a donation.

Truth is I simply can’t send money to everyone who wants it, no matter how cute the child or puppy is on their advertisement.

For every new agency that comes asking, my first response is to try to discover what the CEO of the group is paid in salary. I don’t think it will shock anyone that some of the big guns in a number of organizations seeking $10 or $100 are paid humongous paychecks. If you respond to these invitations to support them and pose that question to them, two things will result: One, you won’t get an answer. Two, you likely won’t be included in their next trolling for loose money.

I’m probably just playing Scrooge in this little game, but I can think of some groups that I sincerely want to support. So when one not on my special list shows up in the mailbox, my response is to enclose a $5 bill and a short note wishing them success and making it very clear that I do not want to be asked again.

The very next invitation from a group I don’t support will receive back a one dollar bill, two quarters, one dime, and a nickel.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.