TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
Custom Search

Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

Guilted Into Giving?
Charity Checkmate.

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Times have changed since I learned about donation guilt during my Catholic childhood. Mom saved all she could from dad's paycheck, sometimes as much as a dollar, then sent it to a Catholic charity in the envelope they'd provided. Within days and without fail, they'd send another envelope. She'd lean the new envelope against the lamp on the small desk that sat in a corner of the dining room, so every time she sat down to write a letter or pay a bill, she saw the empty envelope just waiting to be filled. Why didn't she just throw the envelopes out? She said she couldn't stand the guilt. Why take the chance of going to hell for not giving?
2 dollar bill

If the U.S. Congress would make the kinds of budget cuts to help the country that Mom made to help the poor, America would be in pretty good shape, even if every politician had to eat spaghetti every night.

Now I'm experiencing guilt while culling the tsunami of donation requests that surge into my mailbox at this time of year. Where will my donations do the most good? I lean toward those that do not send me a gift and bill me for it later. Sure, I need a calendar or two, but not over 20. Some organizations send yet another envelope with the words "SECOND REQUEST" or "URGENT." When I see that, it scares me like maybe I didn't pay the electric bill or something, so I tear it open, only to find it's from a charity. Those sticker-return address labels aren't always accurate, and are useless. On top of that, I've received "gifts" of three 50Ę pieces, several quarters, and two actual checks. If they want my money, why are they sending me theirs?

There are organizations that allot big chunks of donations to "compensation of leaders" and "marketing" or "fundraising." I compared the salary of one famous charity's CEO (over $500,000 and a Mercedes) with another ($12,000 and a Chevy), information which helped me decide, thanks to Charity Navigator.

My criteria is elastic; it changed from human to animal causes, and this year, I'm donating to organizations that train animals to help veterans, and to small groups that work their hearts out and don't spend money on TV commercials, are staffed with volunteers, and 100% (or close) of donations go directly to the cause itself. I donate even if it isn't tax deductible, because, in most cases, I've visited them to see for myself all the good they do.

I ponder what Mom would do when a charity I've sent $25. to in the past now sends me an envelope containing printed donation request boxes starting with $1,000. Are they telling me my $25. was too little? How rude. I phoned them and was told their computers must have spewed out the wrong plea, that they have prepared letters for different donor classes. See you around, buddy. Then there are those who ask to be included in your Will. I tell them to call my kids and if it's all right with them, it's all right with me.

Desperate, I tried to end the growing volume of requests by clutching a New Orleans fetish and writing "Deceased. Return to Sender" on the envelopes. This turned out to be some bad juju. The karmic consequence was they sent more requests to my house addressed to "Resident."

While Mom's guilt encouraged her to donate money we couldn't easily afford, I've come up with a win-win antidote: the U.S.P.S. Money Order. That gets my donation to needy organizations, frees donors from the bondage of guilt; and helps the troubled U.S.Postal Service (there's a small charge, plus buying a stamp). Mail the Money Order to the charity anonymously. To compensate the charity for fees lost by selling/renting/lending our names and addresses to other charities, they'll save what they now spend on donor "gifts." And we still get a tax deduction.

Or maybe I'll just send each charity a note stating that they guilted me so badly, I couldn't sleep, and I've enclosed a check for $1.00. If I still can't sleep, I'll send more.

© Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus" December 10, 2016 column

More Columns
Related Stories:

Maggie Van Ostrand's Christmas

  • The Christmas Flower
    Once upon a time in Mexico, a little boy was walking to church on Christmas Eve. He wanted to see the Nativity scene. He thought hard about a gift to bring the Christ child, but had no money to buy one....
  • A Higher Calling
    Once upon a time just a few years ago, a little pine tree stood in the deep forest, isolated and naked. He wondered aloud why he was so small and skinny while a big pine tree standing just several feet away had so many full and lusty branches.
  • Las Posadas
    Not that the commercialization of Christmas has totally taken over ... Las Posadas begins on December 16th and continues each night through Christmas eve. ...
  • Christmas Shopping
    Christmas shopping for me will always be the once-upon-a-time of memory: walking on Fifth Avenue ó it's probably snowing, windows decorated like the fairy tales of childhood...
  • Lame Christmas Gifts: It Is Harder to Receive Than to Give
  • The Crookedest Christmas Tree
    There's something obscene about spending so much money at Christmastime. Itís not like weíre the Three Wise Men hiking across the desert to gift the baby Jesus. I donít even know what frankincense is, let alone myrrh. So letís get down to the most important symbol of all: the Christmas tree itself...
  • A Blue Christmas
    In the vast fellowship of Christendom, December 25th is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ by attending church, singing carols, and watching "It's A Wonderful Life." The Christmas season is an occasion for tree-trimming and the giving of gifts to loved ones -- gifts once symbolic, now spendaholic.
  • The Truth About Rudolph
    Each reindeer can pull up to twice its own weight, making it an ideal animal for pulling a sleigh loaded down with Christmas gifts
  • Christmas Past
    Want to have a wonderful Christmas without fighting traffic, battling mall moms, or spending any money whatsoever? It can be done, trust me. The best Christmas in my family was a broke one. I had lost everything in a fire just two weeks before Christmas...
  • The Night the Posse Chased Santa
    "[T]he most spectacular crime in the history of the Southwest ... surpassing any in which Billy the Kid or the James boys had ever figured."

    See Christmas in Texas
    More Columns







    Maggie Van Ostrand's Christmas

  • The Christmas Flower
  • A Higher Calling
  • Christmas Shopping
  • Lame Christmas Gifts: It Is Harder to Receive Than to Give
  • The Crookedest Christmas Tree
  • A Blue Christmas
  • The Truth About Rudolph
  • Christmas Past
  • Las Posadas
  • The Night the Posse Chased Santa







    Popular Columns
    by Maggie Van Ostrand

  • Katie Elder: Her True Story
  • The Height of Celebrity
  • Belle Starr The Bandit Queen
  • Lottie Deno: Queen of the Paste Board Flippers
  • Fannie Porter of San Antonio
  • The Story of Indianola
  • Cesar Millan and Rachael Ray: America's Great Escape Artists
  • An Evening In Paris With Mom
  • A Confederate Soldier in Texas: Full Metal Corset
  • Annie Rogers and the Bank Dick

  • All Texas Towns :
    Gulf Gulf Coast East East Texas North Central North Central Woutn Central South Panhandle Panhandle
    South South Texas Hill Hill Country West West Texas Ghost Ghost Towns State Parks State Parks


    Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast

    Texas Attractions
    People | Ghosts | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Texas Centennial | Black History | Art | Music | Animals | Books | Food
    COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

    Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Rooms with a Past | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Stores | Banks | Drive-by Architecture | Signs | Ghost Signs | Old Neon | Murals | Then & Now
    Vintage Photos


    Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
    Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved