My Skepticism About Christmas Charity

christmas, grinchI realize this post makes me sound like the Grinch, and truth be told, I am looking pretty green these days. My holiday spirit is high, I swear. I’ve been playing carols since the day after Thanksgiving, shopping up a storm, and we finally got our trees. At the risk of being a Scrooge, I have some pessimistic questions and concerns about all the charitable asks during the holidays.

Every store I enter asks me if I want to donate to some worthy cause, a decent portion of our mail is from organizations requesting for money and the opportunities to give at school and church abound. All this, I understand, as I’ve run a charity. Not that you need to have done so to appreciate the fact charitable organizations run on charitable donations. Even though the bills are higher in December than any other time of year, people are likely feeling a little more grateful for what they have and a little more generous with their finances, so I do get why everyone is hitting us up during the holidays.

I must admit though, the pressure to donate at the counter is slightly frustrating by mid-December. Yes, I know that I can say no, but I’m historically bad at declining when asked face to face … hence the reason this type of drive works. Here is my grinch-y concern about this type of donation. Does Home Goods, for example, get the write-off for all the money generous customers fork over? Do they match the gift-giving or give anything from their own corporate account? Maybe they do. If so, I’d like to know about it. I’d also like them to stop screaming and ringing the bell when someone donates … just because.

Then, there are the stores that ask you to buy something from their store to donate to charity. For instance, at Barnes & Noble, you are asked during checkout if you want to buy a book for a child in need. At Acme, you are asked to buy this “$10 bag of groceries” to support a family in need. I’ve done both, and it seems to me, while this is a nice, convenient way to give back, isn’t the store running the drive actually profiting from their customers generosity? The Barnes & Noble books are priced at face value, not the cost to the company. The bag of groceries contains $10 of packaged food at retail prices, not at a discount. Are they donating the profit from these sales to charity in addition to the items purchased?

Maybe they are, but if they aren’t, I think they should. The books should be sold at the cost to the store, the food should be sold at the cost to the store, the store collecting the money should match the gift, etc. It seems very UN-holiday-like to profit personally from other people’s generosity and/or inability to say, “no.” Call me Ebenezer.

If anyone has info about all this that will make me feel better, bring it!

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, founder and president of Tips From Town. She loves combining all she learned as a doctor with all she continues to learn as a mom of five to bring you interesting, useful and fun information on the Family Pages.

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