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Miss Manners: Nothing to be done about rude charities

Wed., Aug. 5, 2009

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Customarily, my wife and I send out several thousand dollars of charitable checks. This year, I am probably out of a job. Out of work, with no income.

There are only about three organizations to which I feel truly obligated and indebted, and I will send them a token amount (20 percent of previous years) and a note of explanation, and a pledge to send more, if and when I can.

What am I supposed to do with the other 97 charities to which I have been giving for many years?

If I waste 44 cents each to tell them I have no money to give, they will ignore that note and keep on begging and bleating that they deserve my charitable dollars. They will each spend many times 44 cents to try to shame me into giving money I don’t have.

If I ignore their entreaties, they will keep on sending more letters begging and bleating. I mean, I know these guys well. They are not bashful about sending more begging, bleating letters even after I have sent them a contribution. If I send them X $ of contribution, they beg me to send more $ to renew my “Membership.” If I pay my Membership, they beg piteously for an extra contribution. I know these guys.

What should I do? I don’t want to insult them – even though they are happy to insult me by implying I am a cheapskate for not sending them my last dollar. What’s the price of a postcard? Is that OK?

GENTLE READER: It has always puzzled Miss Manners to find how often those who work on behalf of other people in general feel free to annoy the particular people with whom they come into contact. The Mrs. Jellyby syndrome, so cleverly delineated by that nice Mr. Dickens.

Yet doing so is, as you have experienced, common fundraising practice. As you point out, the grating pleas will continue no matter what you do. So it seems futile to offer an explanation unless you can get the attention of someone in a position to stop using charity money to be rude.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@ unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.


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