At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, I have a theory why charitable donations are down.
There’s a new U.S. study showing that charitable donations fell 3.2 per cent in 2009, and wealthy households dried up the most: A whopping 34.9 per cent. You can hear those change purses snapping all the way across the border.
My theory is we’re exhausted by the charitable donation industry, and the more money we have, the more exhausted we are.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, there’s a hand sticking out in front of our faces.
Seasonal charities: Every carol concert requires you to bring a non-perishable food item.
Charitable panhandlers: Those young men and women with clipboards stationed on every street corner on Earth, cheerfully ambushing you for Greenpeace, the Red Cross, Amnesty International, the World Wildlife Fund, etc.
Call centre charity: You want how much for what?
Rock star charity: Endorsed by Bono.
If you manage to avoid all those opportunities, you turn up at the checkout stand and the clerk asks if you want to add a few bucks for the World Yak Relief Project (WYRP). Hey, I’m in favour of yaks. Just not here. Just not now.
So it’s no surprise that in the above-mentioned report, the main reason for the decline is that charities are asking too often and for too much money.
One altruistic impulse can wed you to a charity for life. Actually, it’s easier to get a real divorce than it is to part ways with the WYRP.
If you give to yak relief, it’s not long before all the other endangered or even just annoyed animals are calling, spamming, junk-mailing and stalking you for a donation. Tigers 2.0 lurk in the shadows of your in-basket or leap out of your mailbox, and they’re just as eager to take a bite out of your hide.
OK, I admit I’m feeling guilty and sheepish and vile, but charities need to understand the accumulated impact of their frenetic campaigning is donor fatigue. If the frequency goes up, the amount goes down, according to Einstein.
We can’t go back to the beginning and start all over again, but this year, I’m thinking of suspending all other donations, finding one little kid who seems particularly needy, and handing him (or her) a pile of cash.
And if it all gets spent on bubble gum and comic books, at least the kid will be happy while it lasts. Can’t say the same thing about the yaks.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting; email@example.com.