Service of Generosity: Americans are Unstinting in Giving Help

October 30th, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

 

Photo: bbc.com

Americans are so generous—I’m bowled over after every disaster to read totals they donate to help strangers in need. Only recently they contributed $31+ million to help hurricane victims when five living Presidents asked them for assistance and $14+ million when Hollywood stars such as Justin Bieber, Barbara Streisand, Al Pacino and others entertained for the cause.

Photo: process.st

I’m concerned about some requests for help I’ve seen on an online crowdfunding platform. Someone recently promoted one on Facebook with good intentions: It was placed by family members of a Las Vegas shooting victim he knew, asking for $100,000. Read the whole request and you see they wanted money for more than funeral and related expenses. [I thought $100,000 would pay for an awfully fancy funeral.] Some of the funds were for a college fund for the dead woman’s nieces and nephews. Cynical me figured her sibling[s] were making the request. I bet most people didn’t even notice this detour because they were so upset at this horrendous ending to a life. Early in the game $60,000 had already been pledged. I felt that the additional cause, amounting to a bequest, was a stretch and should have had its own post.

There are tax advantages to giving yet I can’t help but conjecture that citizens donating to the hurricane funds dug into shallow pockets, in many cases, without a thought of tax deductions. Similarly, people rushing to help families of murder victims have altruistic thoughts first. Do you agree? Are you careful when sending money to requests via Kickstarter and similar online vehicles for attracting money where you underwrite projects and other causes? Have you been moved to give an impulse donation?

Photo: cokesburycommons.com

8 Responses to “Service of Generosity: Americans are Unstinting in Giving Help”

  1. Lucan Said:

    You raise a vast and difficult subject.

    Experience, including a quarter century service on the development committee of a not-for-profit board (the very use of the blander euphamism, “development,” instead of the blunter, but more accurate words, “fund raising,” to describe the committee’s work, tells it all), has left me deeply skeptical about the whole subject of charity, at least in our society.

    No doubt, most of those good people, who gave so generously after the Las Vegas shootings and the storms, were well intentioned, but who knows how much of their money ever got to someone who deserved and needed it? More likely, at least some of it went to the low-life leaches that inevitably turn up after disasters to suck up their share of the charity pie. Trump’s crony’s friend with the two man electricity repair company that got the nine-figure Puerto Rican electric grid rebuilding contract is a classic example of how these vermin function.

    I have two suggestions:
    1) Eliminate the tax deductibility of all not-for-profit donations.
    2) Permit only anonymous charitable donations.

    You will soon find out who the genuine givers are.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucan,

    Fundraising is hard work. I do it as a volunteer and see how the small, ferocious committee I’m on drives itself to make money for student scholarships. Our satisfaction comes when we hit pay dirt–a great lot cheers us all! We fund raise via an online auction.

    You didn’t mention the people who make livings raising money for charities. Some work for modest salaries and others make ridiculous amounts of money with silly expense accounts.

    I never thought that the money that the past Presidents collected wouldn’t go to the right places but that is a possibility unless someone honest is overseeing distribution. Oh my. I was in South America one summer during my college years and saw huge sacks of grain marked “Gift of the U.S. Government” being sold in Peru.

    Mine is a small company–as a former boss once said, “it couldn’t get any smaller,” and while I’ve represented great brands at Fortune 50 companies, I can see that my agency wouldn’t be the best choice for a $300 -million account though I know enough topnotch associates who would implement the work better than most for a several $million one. The desperate Puerto Ricans must have slapped their heads on hearing what the US sent them to fix their electrical nightmare. I think I heard over the weekend that this company had been removed from the project.

    I fear if you remove the tax deductibility for donations to nonprofits you will ring the death knell for many. You also forget that under this administration, the rich must get richer, so that would never happen. As for anonymous donations, that would mean that hospital and museum wings would not be built….not a good plan. I don’t care if someone plasters his/her name all over the sheets, appliances and walls of a place….thank goodness for their generosity. I think that there are families such as the one at the head of our country that give a pittance of what they could. There should be a system of penalizing people who boast great wealth and aren’t generous.

  3. JBS Said:

    Regarding hurricane donations, I gave to the Red Cross, because the company I worked for matched my gift (choice was the Red Cross or Salvation Army), and I also could take it off my taxes as a charitable deduction. Besides, I was confident that my gift would be properly used for whatever was needed (and it didn’t hurt that my Dad was on the board of the local Red Cross).

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JBS,

    My mother used to fundraise for the Red Cross and she volunteered as a driver for them and the Lighthouse for the Blind. She had all sorts of adventures she’d share with us at dinner. When they’d be gory–as the time she picked up a cornea, but she said it was an eye, from the airport and rushed it to a NYC hospital where the patient waited for a transplant–we’d plead with her to stop which encouraged her to continue!

    I was miffed at the Red Cross–or a dimwit who didn’t know when to keep her mouth closed–after 9/11. She said that so many people donated blood that they tossed out a lot of it. I wasn’t a donor of blood but I thought that this was harsh, inappropriate and unnecessary transparency.

  5. JBS Said:

    I understand it is correct that people donated blood that got tossed out. However, that blood was collected in NYC in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the WTC. That was when they thought they might use it. Turns out that they didn’t need the blood because people either died in the collapse or escaped and were OK. So, blood wasn’t needed, hence the problem. I believe some blood was transferred to other sites as well, but it is only good for a limited amount of time.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JBS,

    You are correct. Had the woman explained the situation as you did….but she didn’t. She didn’t have your background that’s for sure and I never thought it through!

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    It’s possible there are more scammers counting on misplaced generosity than legitimate charities, so it’s time for head to rule heart. It’s easy: Consult “Charity Navigator” on line. Four stars, the highest rating, indicates best organized along with highest percentages of dollars going to the stated cause as opposed to high, and sometimes outrageous administration costs.

    As the holidays approach, one may expect an explosion of cons, so if a new, unknown and seemingly attractive charity presents itself, best to check it out first. It’s not fun to learn that 85% or more of one’s donation goes to coat some high living executive’s purse.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I’ve been warned by specialists to avoid donating to organizations that represent major diseases because you could be paying for a tassel on a fancy antique Oriental rug in the director’s office or the mint on a pillow in a Hawaiian hotel where a physician is going to a “meeting,” instead of for research for a cure. And that’s on top of ridiculous administrative costs!

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