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Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

The recent surge in charity fundraising calls has me running from the phone.

Am I the only one who’s becoming wary of answering the phone? I’ve been noticing lately that solicitation calls are getting more and more frequent. Most often, when the phone rings it’s either someone wanting a donation or it’s a collections agency looking for the people who had my number before me. (Christina and David, if you happen to be reading this, is eager to talk to you.)

Inevitably, the call comes at dinnertime. I’m busy with my kids and not in the mood to have a ten-minute conversation about an organization I’ve never heard of. What I’d really like to say is I’d be happy to donate if they’d also like to donate an equal amount to my child’s school.

But almost always I cave in and pledge. This is the start of a vicious cycle, since once you donate, they’re sure to call you again over and over. (One cancer group hit me up just two months after my initial gift and started in by saying, “You gave last year, can we count on your support again this year?” I don’t know what kind of fishy calendar they’re using.)

I’m certainly not bashing charities and their need to raise money however they can. The problem is that I don’t make the best decisions about allocating my charitable dollars when pressured on the phone. But maybe catching you off-guard is just part of the game. It’s hard to say no to a live person on the other end of the line, much tougher than it is to throw a mailer into the recycling. 

A few times I’ve made a pledge and later wondered what exactly I was funding. Recently someone solicited support for an anti-drunk driving campaign. I’m not a fan of drunk driving and pledged a donation. As he was getting my address, I asked if the money went toward educational programs or outreach. Eventually, I ferreted out that funds would actually be used for state highway patrol officers and their families. Huh? I felt like I’d just fallen for a bait-and-switch. Drunk driving was apparently just a hook.

On the phone, you can’t investigate a charity. You can’t find out what percentage of their donations goes to administrative costs. For all I know, the “drunk driving” donations went toward new window tinting for the patrol cars.

The callers don’t take kindly to being turned down. I learned this just the other night when someone rang about providing ID cards for kids. He mentioned that I’d donated last year. (See?) I had no recollection of that and to be honest, I really don’t get the point of ID cards. They’re supposed to protect against child abduction in some way, but I’m still not sold.

Weary of the solicitation bombardment, I steeled myself to try for once turning them down.

“To tell you the truth,” I said in what I hoped was a good-natured tone, “kids' ID cards probably aren't in my top ten list of charities to support.”

“Oh, isn’t that sweet,” he answered, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “People can’t think of anything better than--" 

I didn’t hear the end of that sentence, because he hung up on me. Apparently, I either fork over some cash or I’m a jerk.

Ouch. After being ‘dissed by the ID card guy, I vowed I’d no longer make pledges over the phone. If organizations want to send me information by mail, fine, I’ll have a look and make a thoughtful decision. But as I thought about that plan, I decided it flies in the face of good money karma -- that the more you give, the more you get. So maybe I’ll do the opposite: donate to everyone and not worry about it.

Either that or I’ll have to be more diligent about checking caller ID. 

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