Charity Mail: Goodwill Overkill

It’s just something about the end of the year that makes a person want to be a little nicer to other people … to be a tad more jovial about things … and to be a wee bit more on the generous side.

Which makes it prime season for charities, who try and encourage people to capitalize on that feeling of goodwill by making donations of their time or money.

I don’t mind getting out the chequebook or credit card and making a donation towards a good cause.

But the way some of these organizations have been operating lately, it’s making me feel a bit Grinch-like.

Case in point:

Last month, I got my annual gift catalogue from a charity I give to a couple times a year. They have all sorts of neat things you can order for people in need – from farming starter kits to piglets to school supplies for kids. I think this is an awesome idea.

Since my mom also wanted to order, but doesn’t know how to use the Internet, I let her borrow my catalogue to make her order, and made my order for four mosquito nets online.

Not long after that, I got my thank-you note and my receipt, along with a tear-away form I could fill out if I wanted to make another donation.

This didn’t annoy me.

It was the envelope I got from them within two weeks, asking for donations to buy coats for kids in Eastern Europe – as well as another two gift catalogues, one for me AND my mom – which did.

My feeling of goodwill from the previous fortnight almost evaporated. 

Don’t these guys know anything about cross-referencing? It would probably cut down on the number of trees they killed to send out all that stuff.

And it’s not the first time this year they’ve done this. Over the months, I’ve gotten letters with packets of seeds to mail to people in impoverished countries, and countless other things. And I don’t have the money to give every single time they do this, so these things unfortunately get tossed out in the recycling or the trash. And I feel bad, because this is a waste.

But if some charities want to get more people to give more to their causes, they should stop inundating them with mail – and in some cases, persistent phone calls – because it turns people like me right off.

Besides, doesn’t all the material being mailed out, multiple times, monthly, defeat the purpose of helping people in need, by spending the money that should be going to them, on glossy brochures, letters with perforated forms, cards, and stamps and envelopes to send them?

This is not to say all charities do this. In fact, the really good ones keep their papering to a minimum, sending out the essentials, like the occasional newsletter letting you know what they’re working on.

This should be something more organizations should do, if they’re not doing so already. At least donors can see where their dollars are going.

I understand that there are so many different causes and charities out there, all vying for people’s attention. And maybe in this day and age, they feel this is the best way of getting their message out.

But personally, I think they need to practice a little moderation with the paper campaigns.


3 thoughts on “Charity Mail: Goodwill Overkill

  1. Stumbled along here from the vast blogosphere. (Blogosphere’s a horrid word, but it seemed fitting…!)

    I volunteer for Covenant House Toronto, and yea, it bugs me when they do those mass mailings. I’m not sure how much success they get with doing this (I’ll ask the girls in Communications next time I’m in), but they must have enough to keep making room in their marketing budget for it.

    Oh, and I got here through your post about the black-focused schools, and I just wanted to add my two cents, if you don’t mind? I’d like to know what you think about my perspectives. Please keep in mind that I am on the fence about the issue; I’m just raising some points that were not brought up in the other comments.

    The fact of the matter is, as much as educators are not racist, we DO teach to what we know, and our value system is directly reflected in our classrooms; and because of the demographics of teachers in the school board, this value system is primarily Eurocentric. I myself have fairly Eurocentric values even though I am Chinese Canadian, because I grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic Italian community; and so, as an educator (I’m doing my Bachelor of Ed right now), even though I will try my best to introduce multicultural content, my classroom WILL be primarily Eurocentric.

    And so the issue goes beyond having the multicultural resources in our classrooms. It goes beyond ripping up our curriculum and making it more diverse. And the change that is required will take a very, very, very long time… and in the meantime, we will have failed more and more and more of our at-risk students.

    The idea behind the black-focused school is that we would have immediately created an environment where our black students will -not- feel minoritized every day they are in our Eurocentric classrooms, and so they will develop and grow BELIEVING that they can learn.. and NO one can tell them otherwise. That way, they will be able to face society with confidence, rather than having their self-worth deflated right from the beginning.

    There’s obviously a lot more to this issue than what I’ve presented here, but you guys seem to have covered most of the ground =) So yea.. I’d like to know what you have to say about that, especially since you -are- one from the targeted demographic and have quite obviously made it through well enough.

    It would be really interesting also to speak to someone who fervently supports the black-focused school. It’d be nice to have this debate with them…


  2. dicampbell says:

    Hey Karen,

    I know I said it would be a couple days before I could respond … sorry for the tardiness.

    First – again, thanks for the response to this post.

    Second – to answer your question re: my post on black-focused schools …

    Like I mentioned before, I’m torn on the issue.

    On the one hand –

    I DO agree that black students should be able to learn in an environment where they don’t feel like minorities, failures, or statistics-about-to-happen. They need the support system to cheer them on, not tear them down and tell them they CAN’T do something because of who or what they are, or where they live, or where they come from.

    I also agree with you that you can’t go around ripping up the curriculum. You just can’t. It’s like you said – the change required would take a long time, and we will have failed more students in the process. And I totally understand that you basically have to teach what you know, and if that’s what you’re taught – along with what you as a teacher have to get through in a given week, semester, or school year, curriculum-wise – that’s all you can do.

    If there WAS a way to enrich the existing curriculum – which I think I may have mentioned near the end of my post – I’d like to see that happen. And it seems the only way to do that is, as you mentioned, if teachers such as yourself, try their best to introduce multicultural context where they can, within the confines of the curriculum, which seems pretty restrictive.

    I also don’t like when people who oppose the black-focused schools immediately scream, “Segregation!” whenever an advocate of the potential program tries to explain why this might be a good idea. I mean, the meaning of the word is correct, but that word evokes what happened in the U.S. south during the civil rights movement.

    Those images of kids being escorted to school by military men, of people having dogs and water hoses set upon them? We NEVER had that here in Canada. So in a way, to use a word that evokes a different period in time, I don’t think it’s appropriate – I think it’s more fear-mongering, I find.

    On the other hand –

    I’m not completely sold on a separate school.

    From the time I was little, it was understood from what my parents would say and the personal stories they would tell that, (1) there are people out there who I might meet, who could be mean to me, or deny me opportunities, or try to break me down, merely based on the colour of my skin and (2) because of this fact, I should try not to let them get to me, and be prepared to work a little harder than everyone else. You may have heard this, too, so you might know what I’m talking about.

    I guess it’s driven by the fact that, again, I got through the system and I did okay. So did a bunch of other kids. It’s not a huge number – when I graduated high school over 10 years ago, I was one of TWO black kids who walked across the stage on commencement night and got their diplomas.

    I don’t know what the number is now. But I’m pretty sure that perhaps currently, the number of black kids currently graduating from high school is fewer – maybe the equivalent of maybe half a student – maybe less. It just baffles me.

    Why aren’t others doing as well as I did? What did I do right? What currently ISN’T being done right? I don’t have the answers. More questions, I suppose.

    Now, granted, I realize this potential program doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be an entire building dedicated to Afrocentric learning. And anyone who thinks that every single black parent is going to pull their kids out of school and put them in this one is being absurd. The school – should it come to fruition – would be there for those who want to give it a try.

    But is this the last resort? Has everything to help these students ALREADY BEEN DONE? Have people tried everything they can and it just doesn’t work? IS this racism?

    I don’t know. I’m no expert. But I’m just concerned and hope that some sort of solution to the issue can be reached and that these students can get the help and nourishment for their brains that they need to succeed as I did.

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