Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Givers

The Givers



If you have ever been impatiently sitting in a long car line drive-thru at Starbucks and pulled up to the window only to find that your drink has been paid for, then you have been tagged by a giver.

I don't know why it happens when it happens, but there I am, in that hot or cold car, swearing at myself for even thinking I could get through the line fast enough to get to work on time. I grit my teeth and pull up to the window, only to find the person handing out that drink to me without any repercussions to my wallet. It usually happens when I am at my worst.

I drive away telling myself that I will come back, just because I like the people who go there... And the drinks!

The only feeling that can beat that is if I am the buyer. If I see the upset person behind me and I want to make their day a bit better. Being a giver feels awesome!

Whenever there is an international disaster, people in the US instantly start hopping on their computers trying to figure out what we can contribute to reduce this disaster. We face adversity head on and eat it for a midmorning snack.

A mild search online will show hundreds of websites where you can donate to anything from saving Dora the Explorer to helping a child with hospital bills. And the fact that there are so many of these websites proves that there are people out there giving and giving and giving.

These websites take a minor cut of the profits, usually anywhere from 3-15%. We don't blink at the cost because we want to be good people.

Several years ago, I started walking past the bell ringers. I waved away the little girls in uniform hocking their cookie wares. I stopped participating in the local fundraisers that they have at work.

I am a charity snob.

I think it started with Red Cross.

In the fifties and sixties, the Red Cross set out to make a royal profit. They didn't care where the money came from, they were going to take it. One of the first horror stories I heard was of a military camp in Germany in the 1950s. The American Troops were a wee bit home sick and the Red Cross opened up across the river. They were selling coffee for a dollar, and hotdogs for three dollars(in the fifties, when a hotdog was a dollar, and coffee sold in restaurants for a nickel). This is what they did for our troops.

I have heard similar stories of the Red Cross in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, France, and even Africa!

The current CEO, Gail J. McGovern's salary ranges anywhere from $561.000 a year to $1,037,000. Apparently this doesn't detract from it's efficacy according to most websites, but I really have no respect for someone who goes into a charity thinking that he/she is going to make money at it. Most people are quite happy to settle for about one/tenth of that salary to make a living, and we do (if we are lucky).

I used to think that if I donated to the United Way, my money would stay local. It's something that they have tooted on their horns for decades. I would even volunteer a portion of my check to help the local people.

Out of curiosity, if all of my money stays local, then how is Brian Gallagher (the CEO of United Way earning $1,035,347 a year? Am I missing something here?

My mother is a big fan of the Salvation Army. She has even rung that irritating bell for them. She has also gotten a bit irritable with me when I walk right past them without blinking.

Why, oh why, am I such a Scrooge?

Forbes reported that William A. Roberts (the CEO of the Salvation Army) $238,009 last year.

If he donated two/thirds of that back into the Salvation Army, I would have some respect for him.

Why do these people earn so much money? It can't be because the CEOs are such good fund raisers, because these are well-known charities. When people want to give money, these are the top charities that get deluged with money. Nobody thinks about it, they just give it.

But it gets even worse, in my opinion: Last year, the government gave the Salvation Army $384 MILLION dollars.

The US government in April of 2014, was $16,787,451,118,147 in debt. Let's spell this out just a bit better to make it more comprehensible: Sixteen TRILLION, Seven hundred and eighty-seven BILLION, four hundred and fifty-one MILLION, one hundred and eighteen THOUSAND, one hundred and forty-seven dollars.

There are some months that are harder than others. There are months when buying a coffee for the person behind me is not even an option. To be quite frank, if I was   $16,787,451,118,147 in debt, I would definitely NOT give $384 MILLION to the Salvation Army, let alone the $238,009 to the CEO!

I would rather give money to a crack-head on the street, knowing that my money will go to fuel his/her dependency, than to put a dollop of whipped cream in the direction of a charity. With the crack-head, at least I know where my money is going. I can count on that person to spend that money where I expect them to spend it.

In 2013, Americans gave $335.17 billion dollars to charity. Less than what the federal government gave to the Salvation Army.

If you lumped all the people in the US together, added all of their wages together, and then divided by the number of working people in the US, you would find that the average wage of workers in the US is $6,202.00 per year.

And yet these people are still giving, and giving, and giving.

The other problem with large charities is that they pay no taxes on the money that the average John Q Public pays to them. I am sure that the salaried individuals pay into taxes, but the money that is shipped to them in bulk has no strings attached.

Unlike most businesses that have to pay taxes for the money they receive, charities are exempt.

So let's contemplate this for a second.

When charities make a profit, the CEOs get paid more, because they get a percentage of the profits. But if Charities call the incoming monies profit then they are businesses that run on commission. If they are a businesses that run on profit and commission then they are not tax deductible in my eyes.

Then there are the bad givers, the large companies that donate simply for a tax deduction. They predetermine their profits for the year and then write a check that will reduce their taxes to almost nothing in percentages.

It's like a zombie gnawing on the government's bones, but they leave a few pieces of skin because it makes them look like they are not the devouring, crazed, corporations that "We the people" perceive them to be.

Then they go online, or pose in front of a photographer, smiling and holding up this huge check that they are going to get back in their tax deductions, so technically, it's not them writing the check, but the skin of the dead body remains.

The sad part is that the only charities that actually qualify for said deductions on taxes are the charities that pay their CEOs monies for the profit made.

The wisest thing that anyone ever did in my eyes was to set up fund-raising websites, where we can peruse the different people who need the money, from startup companies to surgeries not covered by insurance. We can avoid paying CEOs their umpteen million, and give the money where it is needed. But these donations are not tax deductible.

In 1917, when the Federal Government came up with the idea of Federal Taxes, they also came up the ingenious idea of giving these deductions. And unfortunately, there is no cap on these deductions.

While some states have tried to reduce and possibly eliminate deductions for charities, the problem is that this means the large corporations will stop giving to local charities.

As a child, I remember going door to door for UNICEF. Yes, I was a child whore for charity. I would knock on doors and ask for any spare change. I was thrilled, if at the end of the night, I had a few bucks to donate to charity. The plus side is that I did it out of the goodness of my heart (and because all the other kids were doing it). I didn't even have a social security number, and it was like Trick or Treating, but for PENNIES (that I didn't keep, but it was nice to look at them)!!!

In junior high, I walked a marathon. 20 miles for around 30 bucks for a charity that I don't even remember. I had horrible leg cramps for weeks, and a sunburn that had my mother pouring vinegar on me for three days (they should really make vinegar smell better after all these years).

What happened to the time when charities really were local? What happened to the days when people who worked for charity did it for free?

I saw a video where people were having a carwash for their father because they couldn't afford to bury him. Where were the charities when this needed to be taken care of? Where is this money going?

I work for a large corporation (yes, I am a very small part of the corporate machine).

A few months ago, they announced this WONDERFUL new thing, where we could donate $1 per paycheck to a "WIN" fund that they would use to help other employees in need. First question I asked was: Who manages the fund?

There was a long pause... Uh, Corporate Headquarters.

Okay, so someone I don't know is going to manage a fund of money that will gain interest that will go back into corporate coffers.

I didn't like that.

Next question: Is my money staying local?

Another long pause... Uh, no, it will span through all the cities and countries where our corporate headquarters are located including the 3rd world countries that tend to have more national disasters than others.

So I would never see the people that would benefit from my giving and the corporation would suck up the interest like a leeching mosquito.

Yeah, not gonna donate.

Here's another kicker:

Do you know all those contributions that you coughed up for the company fundraisers?

The company donates YOUR money and then claims a tax deduction.

That's right! YOU are helping your company claim a tax deduction for money that never came out of corporate coffers... Are you feeling like a sucker yet?

You should be...

I recently had my yearly review. Top marks all the way. They gave me a decent enough raise. The one low score I had was the fact that I don't participate in charitable fund raisers.

My supervisor looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to sell my wallet for the purpose of getting a higher raise.

I looked at her with a steady gaze and simply said: No.

And that is what we have to do in this day and age.

If you are crazy enough to think that your money is actually going to a good cause, give it to the cause directly, get a receipt, and claim your own deduction.

But better yet, buy notebooks and pencils for the local school. Take clothes you never wear to a homeless shelter. Volunteer your time at a soup kitchen. Deliver meals for meals on wheels. Hand your money or your time over to someone who needs it. But make sure that it gets directly to that person. Raise money for a local family. Cook a large dinner for a local fire station crew! Or just pay the bill when you see them checking out at the local grocery store. . Walk away from the large corporations (née large charities that do not like to share).

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, many organizations are top heavy. When I had money (not working right now), I'd buy single moms groceries and give directly to her and her kiddos.