What to do when everyone is asking for money

The holiday season + The end of the year = A lot of people asking for donations.  In fact, it seems as though I’m being asked for money morning, noon, and night. For example, here’s what happened on Tuesday:

1- Homeless woman on the corner carries a sign that reads “anything will help.”
2- Grocery store clerk asks if I’d like to round up my total to the nearest dollar to support some kind of medical research.
3- Pass a Salvation Army bell ringer on the way out of the grocery store.
4- Public radio station asks me to donate my vehicle.

5- Read a memo from our office reminding me that there is a toy collection box in the lobby.
6- Open an email from my son’s school asking for a contribution to the library fund.
7- Do research at work and get a “personal request” for money from the founder of Wikipedia.
8- Clerk at the pet store asks if I would like donate a dollar to help homeless pets.
9- My volunteer organization asks me to text something so that they can provide meals to more low-income seniors.
10- Man in the big box parking lot tells me that he needs money for the bus.
11- Read the church newsletter with requests for hats and gloves to give to the local community network.

12- Open the day’s mail to find return address labels and a request for money to fund medical research.
13- The mail also includes an invitation to a birthday party that includes instructions on how to make a donation to charity in lieu of a gift.
14- Open a bill that includes an insert explaining how I can contribute to help people who can’t afford the cost of energy.
15- The doorbell rings and there is a nice young man asking for donations to protect our natural resources (in spite of the fact that I have a “no soliciting” note stuck to the door).
16- Take my daughter, and a bag of canned goods to help the local women’s shelter, to Girl Scouts.
17- Write a check to help provide Christmas gifts to an “adopted” family (I ran out of time to shop!)

All this in just one day. If we included the week’s activities, I would have to add the canned goods I took to the piano recital, the “reverse offering” I participated in at the church, and a party I attended where the “cover charge” was a gift to benefit children in crisis.

I want to be very clear that I believe there is great value in being charitable and I know how fortunate I am to have any money to share. I also value the results that come when people and organizations who need money receive it. I love that my children are growing up in an environment where they are learning how to be a contributing member of their larger community.

The reason I complied this list is because I feel overwhelmed. I know it is my prerogative to say ‘no,’ but saying no all day is exhausting and gives me a feeling I can only describe as bad. To prevent myself from feeling this way, I’ve developed two very poor strategies. One is to pretend I don’t hear the requests, but I know I’m not fooling anyone—including myself. The other is to contribute small amounts to a lot of different places.

Ask any charity though and they will tell you that they would most benefit from a lump sum of money so they can make a real difference. And financial experts recommend that you create a plan for charitable giving and stick to it. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to contribute only in ways that are meaningful to both me and the charities. In addition to sharing my money wisely, this plan will give me something to tell those requesting money. Saying, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I plan my giving carefully so that it can do the greatest good” and meaning it leaves nothing to feel bad about.

If you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions on managing charitable requests, I’d love to hear them.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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