A quick and dirty blog today as I try to work through something that is puzzling me…
Despite my circumstances – or maybe because of them – I frequently find myself with too many material goods of a certain type, especially blankets, canned foods I am allergic too, socks, teeshirts, and so on; and as a result I regularly give to charity.
Upon recently discovering that I have way too many blankets, I decided to give to some charities I normally would not have considered, simply because I was unaware of their existence.
So I made a list and I started surfing websites for addresses and drop off times.
I was immediately surprised by how many of the places listed apparently do not actually want donations.
I say this because their sites frequently did not include location data, phone numbers or email addresses. Many lacked a simple “Contact Us ” page.
Some offered only partial information that all too often proved unhelpful.
In this case, three places listed only a phone number and no one answered the phones – only one had an answering machine and the machine did NOT list drop off hours or a location. Two more listed only an address with no times of operation, one place noted they were only open for three hours on Thursday and did not offer a phone or location, and NOT A SINGLE ONE answered an email requesting more information.
So what, you’re thinking. Small places are usually fairly poorly managed, especially if understaffed or under funded.
Yes they are.
I was looking at… United Way, the Humane Society, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Samaritan House, and Miracle Hill….all large and media-prominent charities with slick websites and huge charity drives once or twice a year.
And I still have not actually made contact with any of them.
To say this bothers me is something of an understatement….I mean I knew how hard it is to get help as a victim, having been on that end of the stick (more on that later) but as a potential donor?
Why is it that Goodwill – which rates poorly and is frequently written up for scandals and inefficiency in actual distribution of goods and services – the only place I could find in my area that made a point of clearly communicating where they were located, when they were open, and the only place where employees answered phones and emails?
And what does it say about us that our society has a penchant for high visibility low efficacy altruism to begin with?
If you want to give, especially sadly in my home city of Greenville, SC, and in many other places my best advice to you is to do what several of the locals including my husband do. Put your donation box in your car and when you stop at the QT for a coffee, give a blanket and some food to one of the many homeless persons who hang out there…or when you go to Walmart give to the lady in the parking lot, or to the coat-less busker playing in 20 degree weather in the park.
To give may be noble but in most places all the big charities are just the opposite, all bull.