Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Charity Wednesdays - Holiday Bell Ringers

I'd like to take an informal poll:  Do you give to those holiday bell ringers that stand outside of stores looking for donations?

While there are a few organizations that do that type of fundraising, Salvation Army, a BBB accredited charity, is the most well-known.   While I have little doubt that donations to them are doing good things for the people they serve, I have mixed feelings about this type of fundraising.

The Good:
* A wonderfully visible sign of the need to support charities during the holiday season.  What's more iconic than a red kettle and a bell ringer this time of year?

* It's a really easy way to donate.  It can't get much easier than dumping the spare change that didn't make it back in you wallet before leaving the store. Of course, as fewer people carry cash, this does get less convenient.  But in some areas, not Kansas City, Salvation Army bell ringers are now using a mobile ap to collect credit or debit card donations.  If it catches on, I'm sure we'll see it here in a season or two.

* It's a great way to teach kids about charity.  A lesson in generosity can't get more hands-on than by putting some change in a bucket.

* For many, it's a great volunteer job.  Many churches and other organizations work with the Salvation Army to sign up volunteer bell ringers.  Some bell ringers are employed, and in this economy, a job is a job is a job and that's o.k, too.

The Bad:
*It is difficult to know how much control their is over collections. I'm sure it drives accountants nuts. It is hard to tell for absolute certain that the $5 you put in that kettle will make it's way to the local Salvation Army.  But, honestly, it's not very common.  It may happen in a few well-publicized cases but it is very rare.

*It's a high-pressure sale.  At least, it can be, if you're the type of person that is easily swung into a guilt trip.  This guilt trip could be made considerably worse if your 6-year-old asks why other people are putting change in the red bucket but you're not.

*It really shouldn't be part of a serious giving plan. At our house we map out how much we can afford to give to charity, what we want that money to do, and which organizations are the best fit for it.  On a tight middle-class budget that means that $5 here, $3 there - amounts that add up - are not part of our plan.  But the $0.53 I got in change after buying my sister-in-law a Justin Bieber CD?  O.k., the red kettle can have that.  But it's the 'extra' in my budget, not what I've set aside for organizations with which I have established relationships.

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