Posts Tagged ‘Charity’

Service of Canaries in the Coalmine

Monday, June 29th, 2015

 Homeless in NYC

I am seeing more beggars in my travels around NYC and increasing numbers of people sleeping on the street such as the men in the photos above and to the right. They are hard to see in these poor images taken within a few days of one another. One is tucked beneath steps in Katharine Hepburn Garden on 47th Street off First Avenue and one is on steps up the street from my office on East 45th near Second Avenue.

One panhandler who disappeared for years reemerged near Grand Central Station the other week, much plumper than her younger self but with a similar cardboard sign asking for help. Was she OK all those years or hanging out elsewhere?

I was astonished by a man in his 60s who was also begging one rush-hour outside of Grand Central. He was well groomed, wore a gray business suit, white shirt and necktie and held a sign that said he was going on job interviews and was looking for work and to please help. Who knows whether he was in trouble or a creative conman? Tragic whether he so desperately needed money that he resorted to the streets or was taking money from kind people who couldn’t afford to help but did anyway.

homeless in NYC 2To confirm my anecdotal observations I looked for statistics but was unable to come up with the number of panhandlers in NYC [or anywhere else] at any time.

I found a recent one about homelessness in a New York Daily News headline from an article by Harry Stevens and Greg B. Smith from February: “Thousands of New Yorkers living in dangerous ‘cluster units’ as homeless population tops 59,000, a record high: The homeless count represents a 10% jump during Mayor de Blasio’s first year in office.”

So that addresses why I’m seeing more people sleeping on the street, but it’s not proof of an increased number of beggars. Michael S. Scott, director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Inc. and clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School wrote: “Contrary to common belief, panhandlers and homeless people are not necessarily one and the same. Many studies have found that only a small percentage of homeless people panhandle, and only a small percentage of panhandlers are homeless.” Scott’s article, “The Problem of Panhandling,” was on his organization’s website.

Editorial written by people involved with charities that help indigent citizens urge the public not to give money to panhandlers but instead to donate to legitimate organizations funded to address ways to earn legitimate income and where to get food and shelter. I’ve always heard this.

Have you noticed more panhandlers and homeless people lately where you live or work? Does this situation indicate an economy more troubled than publicized or that charities have fewer funds to help people in need or that your city or town isn’t doing its job to help the underserved?



Service of Opening Wallets for Charity

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


Give generously

In Anna Prior’s Wall Street Journal article “How Charities Can Get More Out of Donors,” I learned that the emotional ask—sharing heartwrenching descriptions of people in dire need–isn’t as effective as it once was. What is? “Trumpeting the fact that the charity got a gift from a big-name donor.” Experiments cited in the article proved the point. Bill and Melinda Gates open checkbooks. Why? “Because it’s so hard for individuals to evaluate charities these days,” Prior wrote.

The issue of the effectiveness of public recognition–even for smallish donations–show that the probability of giving was 13 percent + for alumni who were told their donations over a certain amount would be published in a newsletter vs. 11 percent for those who weren’t. Further, contributions were $8 more on average with the former group.

high end office designFor those who resent paying for overhead–large executive salaries, meetings at resorts or fancy office furniture for example–a study showed that those told that every penny they donated was going to the cause, as overhead had already been covered by previous gifts, tended to give more.

“As part of the research,” wrote Prior about a study conducted by Uri Gneezy, Elizabeth Keenan and Ayelet Gneezy at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, “they sent 40,000 solicitation letters to people, divided into four groups. One group received a standard letter asking for money, the second got a similar letter saying a private donor had already given seed money to the cause, and the third group’s letter noted there was a matching grant available. But the fourth group got a letter telling them that the charity had already secured donations to cover its overhead costs, so every subsequent dollar donated was going directly to programs.

“According to the study, 8.55% of people in the fourth group donated, compared with 4.75% in the second group and 4.41% in the third. And total donations for the fourth group were $23,120—almost triple the first group’s $8,040, and nearly double $13,220 in the second group and $12,210 in the third. ‘The average donor doesn’t seem to care about the size of the overhead, as long as they aren’t the one paying for it,’ says Mr. Gneezy.”

solicit outside storePrior also covered what’s most effective for in-person solicitation. No surprise that those outside a store got more when they asked for it than those who silently stood by a bucket. The question charities need grapple with is: when does aggression become an annoying turnoff?

There’s also pressure for people to announce their gifts via Facebook, such as offering incentives via matching grants of from $1 to $5 in the donor’s name if givers promote their donations on their Facebook walls. People preferred doing this via Facebook than sending email messages to friends.

Have you been convinced to donate money to a charity based on correspondence; seeing on social media that a friend or colleague donated; via requests from friends or colleagues or promises that your name would be publicized as a donor? Do you have your list of charities from which you never waiver? Do you like others to know you are a donor? What inspires you to open your checkbook and what turns you off?

write a check

Service of Charity IV

Monday, March 17th, 2014


collecting money at church

I turned on the radio on a recent Sunday just as Monsignor Kieran Harrington said that he’s criticized by some for making repairs to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Explained the host of “In the Arena” on WOR Radio, who is also the cathedral’s rector, naysayers suggested he should use the money to cover Catholic school tuitions or give the restoration money to charity. [The program also airs on NET, a faith-centered, Brooklyn-based TV network on Time Warner Cable channel 97 and channel 30 on Cablevision.]

Monsignor Harrington, [photo right], has his hands full and is a person who thrives on keeping busy. In addition to his rector duties and the program, he is associate publisher of The Tablet; the Diocese of Brooklyn’s vicar for communications and Monsignor Kieran Harringtonpresident/chairman of Desales Media Group. He explained that by hiring painters and plasterers, contractors and others, he’s paying them so they, in turn, can cover their expenses—tuition, food and shelter–which he thought had merit.

I agree.

About the same time the “Greater New York” section of The Wall Street Journal featured a photo of a workman leaning from a scaffold up high in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was adjusting something in a stained glass window. According to the caption, the estimate of this three year project is $175 million. Worker salaries will pay for plenty of food, shelter and education. Meanwhile, a NYC landmark will stand tall.

Christ Episcopal Church

Christ Episcopal Church


Apart from the service of maintaining a place of worship so that it’s a pleasant place to visit and shows appropriate respect, don’t we also owe it to future generations to preserve landmark buildings whether or not they have a religious history? I’ve visited US cities where downtown looks like Europe after World War II. They have destroyed all but a few paltry buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Not a pretty sight.

Do you think those responsible for the budgets of places of worship should direct all funds to charity? Are they accountable to preserve the buildings in their charge?

Monsignor Harrington in Cathedral of Saint Joseph. Photo: The Tablet

Monsignor Harrington in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. Photo: The Tablet


Service of Dreaming

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Dreaming 1

I’ve written before about luck and the lottery; that it’s a tax on the poor and how winners often become paupers but it’s again time to dream because the Mega Millions jackpot is $550 million and may even be more as I hear ticket sales were brisk over the weekend.

Raining moneyAfter paying off bills, buying a few gifts for yourself and loved ones, and salting away enough so that you don’t have to worry about how you’d pay for rent, food, clothes and healthcare for the rest of your life, there would be plenty left over. The hardest thing would be to decide where to put the money–all in one spot or a little here and there–whether to address starvation, disease, education, the arts or causes—or to keep it all.

Do you already know where the extra would go or would you first study the subject? Would you give money to existing foundations, start a foundation of your own or keep and then spend all the winnings on houses, boats and cars? Would you keep on working?



Frank Sinatra singing "Luck be a Lady Tonight"

Frank Sinatra singing “Luck be a Lady Tonight”



Service of Charity III

Monday, November 18th, 2013


I’ve covered the dark side of this topic—you could call it a gift that keeps on giving–countless times from gorilla charity fundraising and scare tactics to people who support charities for all the wrong reasons. I’ve written about retailers who ask customers to buy products thereby benefiting twice: They increase sales and look saintly by giving away what they’ve collected and not paid for.

Last week when I reached for my checkbook to send money to help the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines, I hesitated. Should I instead risk sending cash in an envelope without a return address so that I don’t get a pile of subsequent requests for donations from the charity? It infuriates me to see the charity spend in paper and postage even five cents of the amount I donated for a specific cause.

StopI mentioned this to a colleague who has directed major marketing and fundraising initiatives for world-class charities. She said that I should look for the tiny type at the bottom of printed pieces that show how to opt out of receiving future missives. If there is nothing there, she advised, get in touch with the charity and demand that it take you off their list. “It takes time but can be done,” she said.

Why, I asked, do they send so very many requests when I’ve never sent in a penny after the first amount—at least until the next crisis? “A charity never knows when it might get a hit. In one instance, I heard of a donor who gave modest amounts over the period of a year–$10-$20–for years. When she died, she left that charity over $1 million.”

The marketing expert mentioned “permission marketing” where marketers ask for consent before sending something else, whether a newsletter or catalog or in this case additional ask letters. The concept works online–where it started. I don’t think that it’s as pertinent to printed outreach because it takes longer for the recipient to opt out than a click on a computer or smartphone.

phonebankIn many instances it isn’t the charity itself that harasses but a company that the charity hires to fundraise. These consultants with phone banks have only one thing in mind: To add to the amount they collect, the charity be damned. A friend and her mother send their donations to a well known children’s hospital during the week each year when a benefactor doubles the amount of money collected. Her mother got a call asking her to donate $19/month and she explained, several times, that if she did that instead the hospital would actually get less. Clearly the caller didn’t care and kept pushing for her to commit to the monthly amount. She hung up.

Can you share ways in which you’ve unhitched yourself from a charity’s donor list or do you send in money each time or toss the missives? Do you have any recent charity-related tales to tell–some positive I hope?

 Please give

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