Fundraising by Guilt


Money. Everybody needs it. Individuals, businesses, groups.  No one needs it more than non-profits who rely on donations to keep doing the good deeds they do.

I am all for charitable giving, and even though I am, let’s just say not a wealthy person, I do my part.  I like and give to certain charities on a pretty regular basis. Not a ton of money, but I give what I can. And when I fantasize about winning the lottery, I often think about which charities I would share my winnings with.  So I honestly don’t mind giving.

I just really resent being guilted or annoyed or extorted into it.

My daughter’s new favorite blanket is one that got sent to my mother-in-law from an animal loving organization in hopes that their “kindness” will be returned with a generous donation.  Organizations looking for money, now seem to routinely send people stuff—address labels, calendars, even dollar bills—as a way to get the cash flow back to them.


I remember when this kind of practice was fairly new. I would get tons of address labels, all with my husband’s name on them. The few that were meant for me read Mrs. Gregory Stevens. Really? Who does that anymore? I think I may have even said out loud, “When someone sends me an address label for me with my actual name on it, well, then I’ll send a donation!” It took awhile, but eventually I got some. I like to keep my word, even when it’s made to the air, so I sent in my donation as I had promised.

Now, if I sent a donation for every address label I got, I wouldn’t have a need for an address label because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere!

My husband and I now routinely travel back and forth between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To cross state lines, we travel over the Dingman’s Bridge, one of the last remaining privately owned bridges in the country. It’s quite quaint because there is actually a toll collector just standing in the middle of the road ready to tell you to have a nice day or to stay warm.

But it’s not so quaint when every holiday weekend (yes, the whole weekend!), the fire department stations volunteers at the bridge to solicit donations. Drivers are forced to stop by them as they wait to pay the toll.

And now the Christmas season is upon us. That means that I won’t be able to make a trip to the mall or to Target without having to resist the urge to scream at the Salvation Army volunteer, “Look, I’ll pay you to stop ringing that damn bell!”

Let’s be clear. I have nothing against these organizations. They do good work. I just have a problem with fundraising campaigns that rely on guilt and embarrassment, because that’s what they’re doing. Obviously, it must be at least moderately effective or they wouldn’t do it.

And I can’t even tell people not to donate to these places because I know they need the money. So I’m stuck.

I’m stuck getting things in the mail that I don’t really want or need.

I’m stuck trying to avoid eye contact with volunteers who I am forced to drive by multiple times.

I’m stuck listening to bells.

I have never worked in fundraising. It must get difficult to ask for money again and again and again and again. I know that it needs to be done. I know organizations must have a tough time finding fresh new ways to tug at heart strings and make themselves stand out as the one to send the check to.

But I sure wish they could find a way to solicit funds that would make me want to say,  “Why sure. I’d love to donate!” instead of, “FINE. Here’s your damn money!”

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Categories : journeys in life


  1. Stacy Salerno says:

    This is awesome Kelly! I had such a great time meeting you and your family and would love to get together again sometime. It’s only a hop, skip and a jump away!


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