Do You Have 'Charity Fatigue?'

From the ubiquitous red kettles to the option to round up to the nearest dollar at the register, there are many requests for consumers' charity this season.

It's rare to go through a checkout line without being asked for a donation. At PetSmart it's for animals; at Wendy's it's for adoption; at the Dollar Tree Store it's toys for military kids. And, let's not forget the jingle of the Salvation Army bell that sends many of us digging into our pockets. 

It's true, needs are increasing yearly. One viewpoint is that if you're out shopping anyway, parting with an extra dollar here and there likely has little affect on your wallet—and if others do the same, the sum of all the small donations can make a big difference. 

But how do you decide when your donations are enough? Do you have to give each time to feel like you've helped? How do you walk through the cold past that kettle and the ringer of the bell one Facebook fan of Patch referred to as "the bell of guilt," and not feel like a cheapskate?

Donations can add up and some are tired of it.

Facebook user Adam posted this earlier in the week: "I'll go on record as saying that I hate this. After all, they are the ones making money on the transaction yet I'm the one being asked to donate. The snarky part of me wants to ask them if they'd like to donate the profit they just made from me to the charity in question."

Another Facebook user, Jess, said: "Everywhere I go they ask. It's overwhelming at times."

And it's not just on Facebook that people are complaining or questioning these in-your-face fundraising tactics. Columnist Sean Gonsalves wrote in the Cape Cod Times this week that he is starting to wonder if his "empathy muscle has atrophied."

Gonsalves said he is being bombarded in snail mail, email and most recently at his trip to the drive-thru. He refers to his feeling as "charity fatigue."

What do you think? Are you suffering from "charity fatigue?" Tell us in the comments.

Concerned December 09, 2012 at 12:37 PM
May none of you ever need the help of a cancer center, the food bank, a homeless shelter, etc. Yes there are a lot of charities asking but all you have to do is say no.
Avon Barksdale December 09, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Let's not bury our heads in the sand and believe that every charity uses efficient, above-board fundraising techniques. If you receive a call at home "out of the blue," odds are that you are talking to a third-party fundraiser that pockets somewhere between 60-90% of what they raise and pass along the rest to the charity. This is lazy fundraising that hurts all charities, since more dollars are routed away from services and instead go to solicitors. Bottom line: unless the person who calls you works for a charity that you have already given to in the past, and you have told that charity it's okay to contact you, NEVER give over the phone. The best thing to do is figure out where you want to give and call them. Then ask their development staff how they raise their money, and what percentage of funds are spent on fundraising. If you're satisfied with their answer, give generously and tell other fundraisers "I'm sorry, I give through _______, but happy holidays and best wishes." Then hang up.
Gretchen Robinson December 10, 2012 at 04:34 AM
We put all the appeals in a box and go through and prioritize. Most of us are 'rich' in material things and take our cars and central heating for granted, or steaks and flat screen TVs. Part of me says, I'm tired of living frugally. Part of me says, give out of your abundance, an inner abundance. But be smart about it. There are listings of the most effective and efficient charities. I've gotten so when a fundraisers calls, I say, I'm sorry but we won't be able to make a contribution. If they fuss, I hang up.
Richard W. Lunt December 10, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Yet you have no problem of supporting and voting for politicans who give our hard earned tax dollars to "Charity" (Illegals, welfare abusers, unions) Just saying...
Jamie Brown January 01, 2013 at 06:59 PM
My problem with donation requests at the register is that these are just a way for the merchant to get free publicity and goodwill while making its customers pay for it. After they collect your donation, do you think that the gift to charities will be delivered "on behalf of our customers," or of the corporation? These companies want to appear generous without actually being it. They could donate their own money, or at a minimum offer to match donations made by customers. But this isn't the case. Look up the IRS filings for PetSmart Charities. In 2011, they had $42.2M in revenues and gave out $26.1M in gifts to animal welfare groups. They also had $17.6M in fundraising expenses. This means that $0.61 of every dollar donated goes to charities and $0.42 to pay for the solicitation program. The balance pays for salaries and benefits. It could be worst, sure, but it could also be much better (100%) if you gave your donation directly to the charity. The really interesting thing about Pet Smart Charities is that of the $42.2M in donations that it received in 2011, it reports that a little under $7M came from PetSmart, Inc. Yet in the same year, PetSmart Charities paid PetSmart, Inc. $4.4M for "management services," so their actual contribution is less than $3M. Shouldn't a generous company donate these services? In the end, they are getting over $26M in community goodwill/advertising while spending less than $3M. That's good marketing.


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