This is, in some ways, the perfect time to be down with a cold. Work is mostly a matter of plodding along doing data entry. I don't need to be at my best: I just need to keep my head down and go on typing. Hundreds of gifts to process. Charitable fund-raising is an very seasonal enterprise: I handle more gifts in a week, at this time of year, than I ordinarily handle in a month. Anything that needs special handling causes the work flow to buck and pile up: I feel like Lucy and Ethel on the assembly-line, between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The giving season.
Here's a few hints about how to do charitable giving:
1) Make one big donation to one good organization, rather than a bunch of small ones to a bunch of organizations. Two reasons for this. One is that you minimize the proportion of “handling” – the generation of thank-you letters, data entry, and so forth – so more of your money goes to what you actually want it to go to. The other reason is that you'll get less ask mail. Organizations don't trade the names of people who give larger amounts: they trade the names of the little donors, especially the ones who haven't given recently. (Now, this is the opposite of the rule for advocacy giving. An advocacy group gets a lot of its clout from being able to say they represent a lot of people, so you want to spread your gifts of that sort as thin as possible.)
2) Do a bit of research: at least check the organization's rating on Charity Navigator. If they don't have three or four stars there, you'll want know why not, before you give.
3) Don't staple your check to anything. Just don't. If you don't trust the organization to keep track of your check, you don't trust them enough to give them money.
4) If you have any helpful suggestions about the organization's process? – save them for later. Don't make them between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The whole organization is scrambling, and the last thing they have time for is a closely argued proposal for changing the font on their reply envelopes. It's really, really, just not the time!
5) If you're moved to put a smiley face on the envelope you send back? Or a note saying “keep up the good work!” or “thank you!” – it will be read and it will set a little glow in the heart of the person who opens it. Probably they won't have time to make any special answer, but believe me, it makes a huge difference. It doesn't get tossed unread. It registers.
And – thank you. Thank you. We mean it when we say thank you. You guys are the best.