AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG
You know what I hate? Charities.
Sure, every charity claims to have some noble purpose, like saving orphaned kittens or vaccinating children in Ghana or bailing out Willie Nelson from the IRS, but the truth is each and every one of them has one overriding goal: to raise money for itself. I get more junk mail from charities than from anyone else (with the possible exception of those stupid tree-slaughtering jerks at CapitalOne bank). I never used to get mail from charities. Then about eight years ago, I gave $25 to AIDS Project Los Angeles. But was that enough? Noooooooo! They immediately wrote me to ask for more money. And not just once, but constantly. I started getting solicitations from APLA on nearly a weekly basis, all of them telling me how much good my $25 had done, and how much more good I could do if I could just dig a little deeper.
And it wasn’t just APLA that got greedy. Suddenly, it was like an alert went out to all of charity-dom. My petty contribution (every time David Geffen exhales, APLA gets $25) alerted every nonprofit deadbeat do-gooder leech that my bank account was open for business. I don’t get it. If APLA knew I was good for a few bucks now and then, why wouldn’t they keep it their little secret? I got the feeling they were going into charity chat rooms and swapping sucker lists. My mailbox was soon flooded with desperate pleas from Sally Struthers and Christopher Reeve and Jimmy Carter.
Oh, don’t get me started on Carter. He sent me the nicest letter asking for help for Habitat for Humanity. He introduced me to the Zeller family, who thanks to HFH had a lovely two-bedroom home in Gainesville to call their own. So, of course, me, being a total sap, gets all teary-eyed and whips off another check to the first president I remember begging my parents (in vain) to vote for. What a dope I am. Soon enough, I’m getting other letters from HFH, but not from the big guy himself, from some paper-pusher I never heard of. “God bless you for your generous gift,” it said. Who bless me? I didn’t know he had anything to do with this. “Your gift helps us to do God’s work,” it continued. God, God, God. He was all over that letter. Hey, I never signed up to do God’s work. Jimmy Carter didn’t say anything about God. He said my contribution was going to pay for 1,000 nails. And that brings me to my other point: when you give money to a charity, you never know where it’s really going. I decided that if I ever gave to Habitat for Humanity again, I’d just buy the nails myself and send those directly to Jimmy. That’d save me the rage I felt at knowing my cash was swindled for the sake of God’s work.
The other thing charities love to do is guilt you into contributing. “Oh, look, they sent me address labels with pandas on them. If they spent all that money on this lovely gift, well, I just have to give to the Wildlife Fund now!” Guess what: no, you don’t. Besides, I’ve discovered that even if you don’t pay for them, those labels work just the same. You know what it’s called when someone gives you something you didn’t ask for and then expects you to pay for it? Extortion. And it isn’t any prettier when you slap a panda on it. Yesterday, I got some address labels from Project Angel Food. And guess what? In that same batch of mail, there was another batch of address labels from Project Angel Food, stamped — get this — “Second Notice”. In bright red block letters, like it was an unpaid bill. Well, either they’re really pushy or they really want to help me with my outgoing mail issues. But does anyone really need all these address labels anymore? I mean, any schmo can print address labels on his or her personal computer these days. Hey, Project Angel Food, next time do me a favor. Send stamps instead.
I’ve got nothing against Project Angel Food or APLA or even Habitat For Humanity (well, except for their failure to be upfront with me about being a religious organization). But they’ve hired some really obnoxious marketers to raise funds. I never sent APLA another dime, but over the years, they’ve spent at least twice my original $25 on mailers designed to get me to give again. I’ve finally faced up to the harsh truth: sure, when you give Geffen-level money, they use it to construct buildings and name them after you, but when you give $25, they use it to print address labels and send unwanted junk mail to a bunch of strangers who are surely as sick of it as I am. So I’ve decided I’m going to do Jerry’s work from now on. Until I can afford to give an amount that will really make a difference and to slide my check personally into Jimmy Carter’s hands, I’m going to do the most charitable thing I can afford to do.
I’m going to stop giving to charity.