Pet Peeve – Charity Waste

I just finished compiling my income tax information for my accountant and I feel about 20 pounds lighter despite the Nutella I ate from the jar last night. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. 😉

I’m a bit nutty when it comes to keeping records of our spending. It’s an odd hobby, I know, but I input everything, and I mean everything, into Quicken. It takes some time, but it’s worth it. I can tell you important stuff, like exactly what I spent on coffee in March 2010, and how much we laid out at the hardware store for electrical tape, used as hockey pucks when playing in the driveway.

In past years, it brought me some joy to know that I was increasing my charitable contributions year after year. But recently, with my cost of living increasing and my salary unchanged, I’ve had to cut back in all categories, charity included. And so, I’ve become increasingly careful about where those hard-earned dollars go. Where will they do the most good? Which charities are the most responsible and deserve my money?

A few years ago, I discovered Charity Navigator. It evaluates the financial health of over 5,500 of America’s largest charities, providing information on how much they spend on program and administrative expenses, what their mission is, how much they pay their executives, etc. Based on this information, it assigns them a score and a 0- to 4-star rating. I was shocked to see some popular charities rated so low. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones. I decided to contribute only to 4-star charities in the future.

Obviously, there are people who disagree with how the ratings are calculated, blah, blah, blah. However, since I’m not an accountant and can’t take the time from my already busy life to begin a third career in financial research, Charity Navigator is the next best thing. It also comes in handy when those annoying telemarketers call at dinnertime. “You want my money? Hang on one sec while I look you up on Charity Navigator…Oh, only one star. Sorry, I only give money to 4-star charities. Have a good night.”

So here’s my pet peeve. There are two hugely popular charities, which I will not name here. One is rated with one star, the other four. They both send me gazillions of return address labels with their donation request forms. So do other charities. I end up throwing tons of them out because I don’t mail much anymore. I pay all my bills online. But the thing that drives me crazy about these two charities is that the return address labels are always incorrect. One charity repeats my address line; the other chops off half of my surname. They go right in the recycling bin, along with the envelopes and inserts. It makes my blood boil. I don’t know how much these “gifts” cost to produce, but I say knock it off already. I don’t need them or want them. If I wasn’t planning on giving you money, I’m not going to be swayed by your address labels.

Okay, I feel better now. Thanks for listening. I’m slowly backing away from the Nutella jar.

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50 Comments

  1. Jackie said,

    March 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I find that all junk mail is quite a nuisance. However, I DO use those labels because I feel it is a shame to waste them. After all it is very difficult to get rid of something that has your name written all over it. So when I need to send out 100 XMAS cards, or the same amount of birthday party invitations and thank yous, they do get used. But the best way I use them is when I am going to a charity event and buying raffles and have to write a thesis on the back of those tiny little raffle tickets in legible handwriting explaining 3 valid ways I can be reached if I win something. Forgot about the neat handwriting, the hand cramping or the tedious nature of filling out 3,000 raflle tickets, next time just bring along your labels and stick away! And thankfully they are self stick, otherwise we may all end up like Susan on Seinfeld!

  2. suzicate said,

    March 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Yes, I do use those labels…even if I don’t choose to donate to that particular organization. (And yes, they most likey use donations to fund those labels in hopes of guilting money from people who receive them.) I like to know where my money is going…such as how much actually go to said charity and how much to salaries and if they are politically motivated, paying towards political parties….those don’t get money from me!

    • March 10, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      I couldn’t use them all if I tried. Several charities send them to me every season. I’ve got labels with birds and flowers, and flags and fireworks, pumpkins and turkeys, Christmas trees and wreaths (I actually use those for my Chrismas cards, one of the few times I physically mail anything).

  3. Jessica S said,

    March 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    “can’t take the time from my already busy life to begin a third career in financial research”

    That stung. LOL

    • March 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Stung? What am I missing?

      • Jessica S said,

        March 16, 2011 at 2:55 am

        Nothing. LOL… I was just giving you a hard time, because I enrolled in the Boston Institute of Finance not so long ago. I wanted to comment, but my brain farted, so that was the best I could muster up at the time.

  4. bronxboy55 said,

    March 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    All good points, Margaret. As people struggle financially and the number of charities continues to multiply (or is it just my imagination?) these organizations are going to have to find ways to be more efficient. Unrequested address labels, even correctly printed, seems like a needless expense.

    • March 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      I especially enjoy when I get the dime in the mail. How do you record that for tax purposes if you donated $25. Is it 24.90?

  5. Richard said,

    March 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    The return labels from the Friends of Nutella Addicts are now winging their way to you, I’ve no doubt. 😉

    • March 10, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      I’ve already received those, but they misspelled my name UmMargaret NumReyes NumDempsey. 😉

      • Richard said,

        March 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm

        Amazed they got to you with Sesame Street on the label.

  6. March 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I work with several charitable organizations. I am 110% with you on the name thing. Typically we have volunteers entering names. I get really anal about these names and give speeches after speeches about how important these names are. “These are people – I-N-D-I-V-D-U-A-L-S – and they are giving us money. The most important thing we can do to thank them (and invite them to return!) is to get their name right.”

    But the reality is names in organizations like this are transfered dozens of times. Names become jumbles of letters. It’s a huge bummer. Certainly worthy of driving said individuals to a jar of Nutella.

    Great resource.

    • March 10, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      I wouldn’t even mind if someone called me by the wrong name. It’s the waste that drives me crazy. The fact that all those trees are being used to create all that paper that is being thrown in the garbage or recycled, which has its own costs.

      I wonder how effective those address labels are in raising funds. It just seems like such a tired, old practice. Times are changing. There has to be a more creative way to get the public’s attention and make them want to respond.

  7. Roberto said,

    March 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I could continue to ponder this and question where my charitable contributions go, or I could continue to suck whipped cream out of the can. Decisions…

  8. Zahara said,

    March 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    M, you attract some humorous comments, birds of a feather and all.
    Choking on my pancakes here.
    Recently I found myself at the Post Office, and I was short a large envelope, and they had none to sell me, so I rooted around in the recycle box and found a big, blue, sturdy, unopened cardboard envelope from The Nielson Company, (tv ratings?), opened it, and out fell 2 crispy one-dollar bills.
    Needless to say I dug a little deeper.

    • March 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Rob, pass the whipped cream. Z’s pancakes are a bit dry.

      Two dollars? Do you think that’s what they pay people who participate?

  9. Snoring Dog Studio said,

    March 11, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Thank you for that link! I have a couple of favorite charities but I can always throw a few more dollars at some worthy ones. I appreciate the labels a ton but I can’t stop feeling guilty when I use the ones from charities that I don’t donate to. It’s not as though they can see me doing so. Or, can they? Why is guilt not cured by eating spoonfuls of peanut butter straight out of the jar?

    • March 11, 2011 at 8:40 am

      It sounds like I get a disproportionate amount of labels sent to me. Maybe I’ll start saving them and take a photo. I don’t have any guilt using them, but it could be that Nutella has more of a numbing effect than peanut butter. 😉

  10. Linda Lewis said,

    March 11, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Speaking of charitable giving, I wish the government was a charity to which I could determine how much to give. It would get far less than the required amount due to irresponsible spending. Oh, that opens the door to a lot of ranting. Pass the nutella to calm me, and can I have a little peanut butter with it.

    • March 11, 2011 at 8:42 am

      I like that idea, Linda.

      Wow, Nutella and peanut butter. I haven’t allowed myself to do that yet. It sounds…um, nutty. 🙂

  11. March 12, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I think the best measure of whether a charity sould get a 4 Star is the ratio between salaries/bureaucracy costs to amount that actually gets into the hands of the needy. The Salvation Army is the best on that measurement. Many spend almost half of their income on advertising and promotions to get more money which does not make much sense to me. They best way to get you money’s worth so a charity get it money’s worth is to give to the locals in your town. I have found that volunteer time is much more valuable to many of these than dollars.

    • March 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      You bring up a good point. Many people are against the salaries that some charities pay their execs. Running a huge charity is a full-time job and people need to eat and therefore earn a salary. But how much is too much? How about if professional ball players give up part of their salaries to pay people who head up charities?

  12. Melinda said,

    March 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Oh I’m right with you. They would have more money if they didn’t spend it on all that crap. I even get greeting cards to go with the address labels and after all that and the postage for sending me this giant package… how much is my $10 going to actually do? I just want them to send me an email with a link to a site I can just donate to with no paper involved.

  13. huffygirl said,

    March 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Good points, Margaret. Other than Christmas Seals, I’ve pretty much sworn off giving to any chartiy that send me labels, dimes, cards, or presumes that I will go around my neighborhood collecting for them, and sends a large kit of envelopes and such to do so. The thicker the envelope I receive, the less likely it is that I will give to them.

    I’ve also pretty much sworn off any charities that make soliciting phone calls.

    That still leaves plenty of charities out there that I support that have good track records and good causes, and don’t fill up my mailbox with recylcing material.

    Don’t overdose on the Nutella – that is something I have never tasted, but I presume it is because it is made with…nuts?

    • March 14, 2011 at 7:15 am

      I had my last hurrah with the Nutella. Right after I finished the jar and poured some 1% milk into it to get the last bits out, um num num, I threw that baby out and got back on the nutrition and exercise horse. Hi ho Silver and away! Thanks for popping in, kemo sabe.

      By the way, I saw my first worm-eating robin yesterday. Yay for Spring, but not for the worm. 😉

  14. Anna said,

    March 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

    i know this will rival the time u would spend in a 3rd career as a financial researcher, but you can call the charities and be asked to be put on the “do not mail” list, so you will no longer receive all the cr*p in the mail.

    or you can just throw them out guilt-free (as i usually do) as i remind myself we live in a wasteful country, and this is just part of our culture….

    and last, you can give them as stickers to a happy toddler who won’t care about the misspelling.

    happy to have found your blog from our friend fordeville!

    • March 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Anna. My happy toddler used to get the stickers, but he’s 11 now. 🙂

      I feel like I was on a do not mail/do not call list. I wonder if those things expire. I probably have to do it again.

  15. fordeville said,

    March 14, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Your points are all great. I think that, going forward, you should donate only to the Nutella World Fund, so that everyone may enjoy its creamy chocolate hazelnutness. {And of course to 4 star real charities who do important work}.

  16. March 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Lol! At least you try, you still give regardless of the unchanging income and increasing bills….. The least they could do is send properly addressed labels- geez! 🙂 K

    • March 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      I don’t want them, properly addressed or not. I don’t need them. I think I mail two bills per month. Everything else is paid online.

  17. markp427 said,

    March 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Whew. Nary a mention of liver here. Nutella, I can deal with.

  18. Jessica S said,

    March 16, 2011 at 2:57 am

    By the way, where on earth do you buy Nutella? I’ve seen the commercials, but I can’t find the stuff anywhere.

  19. John said,

    March 16, 2011 at 4:45 am

    ALright I got that ! Yeah it’s really offending to have our surnames or any part of our name or addressed misspelled . This kind of thing has occurred to me a million times. Nutella is so delectable! I enjoy it with bread. Anyway coming to your expenses blues I would say same is the case with many of us , income is unchanged but expenses are increasing.How lovely it would be if it was just the other way round !!!! ?? lol ;p

    • March 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      Increasing income, decreasing expenses–wouldn’t that be great!

      About your Nutella habits, I see no reason to waste a piece of bread when a spoon works perfectly well. 😉

  20. March 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Love Nutella. And I have passed my love on down to my children so the ad campaign can stop. I do not want there to be a shortage of Nutella.

  21. March 17, 2011 at 12:35 am

    No help for the label dilemma. When I make peanut butter and nutella sandwich for my 14 year old, I get “you are the best mom” award for the day. Put down the whipped cream can though!

    • March 17, 2011 at 8:29 am

      When I was a kid, I used to love fluffernutter sandwiches. Marshmallow fluff is also great on devil’s food cupcakes.

  22. August 19, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any methods to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d definitely appreciate it.

    • August 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm

      Hi, Dennis. I can’t say I’ve had that problem, and I’m not sure what you can do to prevent it from happening. The internet is a bit like the wild, wild West, isn’t it?

    • August 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      All my stuff is original except when I need pictures of people, places or things. Much is clip art or background scenery. Obscure filler junk. I do not use these for anything that may be published for my own integrity and not to complicate things for my publisher. I use for blog only. I make no money from the blog nor is any picture distorted into something obscene. Have had only 10% success getting replies for permission. So I do credit when able at least. Having written so many term paper type articles I want to credit everything because it validates my research. For my blog I have subscribers all over the world and have no way of knowing if my cartoons have been stolen. Everyone in wordpress family has always asked permission and the answer is yes, just credit, in the effort to be supportive of each other’s blogs. Ultimately there is not much you can do unless you are a biggy like Homer or Chaucer. So write for your audience and don’t concern yourself.

  23. pepeluca said,

    December 23, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Hey There. I found your page searching with yahoo. This is an extremely well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thank you for sharing it. I will absolutely be back again.


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