Snow: Dealing with year-round giving season

January 5, 2013 

One of the benefits of having the presidential election and the holidays behind us is that I no longer have to take the wheelbarrow to the mailbox to fetch the mail.

And the telephone calls soliciting votes – and money – have eased up. But by no means are gone.

I don’t even miss those letters from the likes of Barack and Michelle, the Joe Bidens, William Jefferson Clinton, and even an occasional dispatch from the Republican side of the political aisle.

I’m relieved that the affair between my wife and Robert Redford has cooled. His letters, almost weekly for a while, have quit coming entirely. Obviously, he was only after her money.

Solicitations from charities always increase during holiday seasons when hearts are supposed to be more pliable to the pleas for cash. We once received 10 in a single mail call.

I find the tactics often frustrating.

One solicitor offered a deal: Make one more gift and she would never ever ask for another donation. Now there’s a deal! But can I believe her?

A number of organizations prey on our conscience by enclosing money in their “gimme letters.” Here’s a letter with a nickel taped to it.

What am to do with the nickel? Of course, I can’t spend it without suffering pangs of conscience. Mailing it back will cost 44 cents.

I’ll probably send along a modest contribution, even knowing it will inspire more solicitations and add my name to the “sucker” roster.

It seems we get a solicitation from the Brady Bill organization almost every month.

As many of you remember, this charity, aimed at reducing gun ownership, grew out of the 1981 attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

James Brady, the president’s press aide, was shot and left partially paralyzed for life.

With mushrooming gun ownership in the U.S., one can’t help wondering about the organization’s effectiveness.

Sometimes, before responding to a charity’s request, I go online to check out the salary of the CEO. If he or she is knocking down $300,000 or more, I’m likely to put the request in the “deferred” file.

I try to be polite to telephone solicitors unless they provoke me into being curt or even hanging up the phone.

But I’ve been more tolerant after the reaction of one telephone solicitor whom I reprimanded for calling on Sunday: “I have to do this to make a living. All you have to do is hang up!”

Although nobody has asked for them, I have a few tips for those who make their living working the telephones and begging for money.

1 Don’t call on Sunday. A lot of folks still consider it a day of rest that is supposed to be free of the stresses of the other six days of the week.

2 Don’t expect anyone to stand still for a telephone survey of more than three minutes, no matter its purpose. We are a busy and impatient people.

3 When the victim gives you a polite “No, not this time,” don’t keep pressuring. The prospect is entitled to hang up and put you on his or her black list.

4 Don’t over-solicit by calling the same people every two weeks or month. They’ll remember and resent your persistence.

For several years we’ve been harassed by an outfit seeking to sell our time share so we can avoid those ever-increasing membership dues.

Time after time they’ve promised to remove us from their call list. You see, we don’t own a time share.

5 Don’t call between 6 and 8 p.m. That’s usually dinner time. A potential donor wants no part of your spiel when his steak or chicken pot pie is getting cold.

6 Don’t request a specific amount, with no options offered. Doing so can turn off a potential donor.

I hope I haven’t sounded like Scrooge with a hangover. I’m sure you’ll continue to give as generously as you can to the charities of your choice.

But since the government’s “Don’t call” system seems to be on the blink insofar as protecting us from the flood of unwanted calls, we have to fend for ourselves.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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