08 January 2009

A Just Post Call For Help

Those fine Just Post women are hanging up their hats this week. For the final Roundtable, they put out this query:

Dear Readers, What say you? Are you a pragmatist or a Heart of Gold? Or are you some other kind of hybrid altogether? Will you join us in becoming an ongoing financial supporter of a cause you believe in? Will you write about it on your blogs or in your tweets? Will you help to raise money AND the profile of organizations that desperately need aid?

And that's what we are asking for as our farewell gift. Send us your link by the 8th and we'll include it in our last Just Post Roundtable on the 12th.

I've always worked for non-profits. Always. Except for stints at Publisher's Clearing House during summers in college, or part-time at a law firm while in graduate school, all of my employers have been non-profit arts organizations in New York City. All four of them (yes, four jobs in 22 years, I put down roots) have depended on the kindness of individuals (and corporations and foundations and government) for on-going support - because even though there's always a bit of earned income, it's never enough.

Can I tell you how much we appreciate that help? We really really do. Even a check for $5 means something - because that person took the time to sit down and write a check for $5, and put a stamp on the envelope, and dropped the contribution in the mailbox. And that $5 is going to be good for something - it'll buy some socks or a ream of paper. And if 13 people give us $5 each, we can buy a pair of pointe shoes for a twelve year old girl, who would never otherwise have the chance to dance. And 100 gifts of $5 - hey, that's $500 - pretty soon you're talking real money.

Opening up the return envelopes from our end of year campaign is one of the high points of my job, and it's not even my job. I just pitch in and help because I really like opening envelopes with checks in them, especially the ones from people just like you and me. Sure, a big check from a swank foundation is fun too, especially when it's for five or six figures, but the little ones really tug at the heartstrings.

As a result, I take my own personal charitable giving seriously. It's certainly not a lot of money - I haven't got a lot of money - but I try and spread it around to places where it seems like it'll do the most good, and that mean something to me.

In 2008, I made cash contributions to 34 different organizations (and dropped some stuff at the local thrift shop which benefits the American Cancer Society). One organization got three separate gifts, but that's because I'm on the board and there were several campaigns and an event. A few gifts were made because of specific requests by friends or acquaintances (like walk-a-thons, or the $50 gift to Rockefeller University requested in lieu of a present by a friend who turned 50). Others were completely local (the volunteer fire department, the library, the volunteer ambulance corp, the nearby hospital).

Some gifts were made as a result of news items. After the Hurricane Ike, I sent a bit to the Austin Food Bank. The Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was profiled in the New Yorker; they got a gift. Planned Parenthood got a contribution in memory of Sarah Palin. And I sent a bit to CIMIT after reading an article in the Times about their project to build incubators out of car parts.

Of the 34 organizations, 16 were repeat gifts - I've given to them one or more times in the past five years. I give to my college every year. On my birthday - which is just before the end of the calendar (tax) year, I send the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund my age in dollars. This year, they got $48. Next year, it'll be $49.

Oh, and I have rules. I always slip a note in the envelope asking that they not add me to their list, and that they don't solicit me more than once a year. If they fail to respect that, or if they don't send me a thank you note, I blacklist them.

I'm not telling you this to toot my own horn. I'm telling you this because a little here and a little there adds up, and giving becomes part of your life.

The Just Posts have been a wonderful spotlight on causes that move people, on issues of justice across the board, from access to health care to poverty to volunteering. And so in honor of one of the women who founded the Just Posts Roundtable, my first contribution in 2009 was a modest gift to an organization that helps the homeless.

You can help too. $5 really can make a difference.

19 comments:

Ilina said...

You are a shining example.

Mental P Mama said...

Amen.

Mad said...

Ah Magpie, this is swell. Just swell.

I remember just after my MIL died, my husband and BIL's were sorting through her papers. There in a folder was a folder with all her ongoing charitable projects. The list was staggering, from Uniceff right on down to the small town museum that she volunteered at. No doubt, she built up that profile over her life but she tried to keep all the other balls in the air as she added more. My MIL, like you, was a good woman--good to the core. Thank you.

flutter said...

you are damned good people.

Lady M said...

>>I always slip a note in the envelope asking that they not add me to their list, and that they don't solicit me more than once a year. If they fail to respect that, or if they don't send me a thank you note, I blacklist them.

That's a great idea. I wish there was an easy way to do that with online donations as well. I'll contribute to friends doing charity marathons where I know it will be a one time donation, and I have to see them waste postage. Sometimes I spend a stamp just to tell them to stop.

nonlineargirl said...

I may have to rethink my plan. This holiday I decided to give to our local food bank, in lieu of the small gifts we often give coworkers, etc. Maybe I should break it up a bit next time, give to several organizations.

Anjali said...

That is a GREAT idea -- telling organizations not to add you to lists or contact you more than once a year. I think this is why I hesitate to diversity my giving. (I give to about 5ish places regularly.)

Furrow said...

I love online giving, but I wish that always meant no paper. There's always an option not to receive email updates, so I don't understand why I still get snail mail. Especially from environmental causes. Arghh.

bernthis said...

I volunteer my time, sometimes in lieu of money. I volunteer at the ER of a local hospital and have done the same at a dog shelter.

There is a family nearby that has very little cash and a little girl and she gets all of my kids clothes (only the clean stuff and sometimes, some of the items are still brand new) Otherwise, I do give a money here and there and I agree every dollar makes a difference. Thanks for all you do.

jen said...

thank you. for this and for what you've done. so much. xo

i am very mary said...

And just when I think I couldn't love you more? Well then, I do. You should be my sister. Really. We can work on that.

Maggie May said...

awesome post, lady.

Aurelia said...

This is great. We give, but not enough small amounts. I'm always thinking why bother if it's not a big one?
But clearly small things can grow into big ones if you give to enough places.

Gwen said...

I like the idea of the note. I'll have to adopt that.

I find myself giving to homeless people all the time, much more than I used to. I have jen to thank for that.

underthebigbluesky said...

thank you for this. i always think that's just not enough to give that it won't help.

but i'll keep that in mind next time and do it anyway.

Florinda said...

Thanks for this. I've spent my entire career in nonprofits too (it's how I justify the essential soullessness of accounting), and being in a position to see what donations can do can be a real eye-opener.

Woman in a Window said...

That's nice to know. We can't afford to give much more than that and are often bullied to up the amount. I resent that. I offer my few dollars willingly when I can. I wish it were more but I am glad that at times it is appreciated. Thanks for this.

painted maypole said...

thanks for a view from the other side of the envelope

Anonymous said...

From the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen -- thank you, although I'm certain that if all our systems are working properly, you will have already have received one. Just wanted to say I loved your gift to Planned Parenthood in honor of SP. Wish I had thought of it -- but I may do it anyway.