Year End Appeal Overkill

by Sherri W. Morr

Do it by tonight. Your last chance. The hours are fading away. We made our goal, but it’s not too late for you to join. Save the children. Give global women a chance and stop global warming. This year you can help. Give a gift of hope, joy and light. Plant more trees, and let’s not forget the homeless.

With the clock rapidly ticking rapidly away to 2011, there have been more appeals in the mail than ever before. Numerous envelopes with heart rendering photos on the outside, filled with 3 pages of facts, remittance envelopes and painfully sad letters. Photos of animals, families and people at risk. You helped us do this, and now we need you to help us do that. Young people who want to study, new immigrants who need a chance, foster children who outgrew their status. Oceans that need cleaning, cities that need rehabilitation, and politicians who want you to help retire their campaign debt. Success stories that you created with your gift in 2009. Letters that plead for expanded services, and continuation of programs for the arts, museums and theater spaces. Schools and education dollars to replace what our governments used to be responsible for, now appeal to us to carry that burden. Thank the president, the senator, the supervisor, the mayor and the school board-make a gift. Remember the fallen, those who departed, served their country, their industry, their passions, give a gift that honors their contribution.

Every possible cause, every interest, and every leisure time activity has asked for contributions.

Granted they need them, for sure they are worthy, but so many “asks” clearly cannot handle the shrinking philanthropic dollar. Many organizations say their gifts are up. Smaller gifts, more contributors. Others say there is a severe decrease. Some organizations even wrote to say they are NOT asking, but should you want to…

The donors themselves are confused, weary, and depositing such mail in the round file (for recycling of course). One donor I know took all his mail and deposited it on the desk of a nonprofit CEO, and said, “OK, you tell me where I should give.”

And then there is online giving, the new social phenomena associated with social networking. Don’t buy me a gift; give that $10 to a good organization. Your birthday? Nah, you don’t need another item for yourself; celebrate someone else, you do need the feel good feeling of doing good. It’s a lot of good I know. One online site raised $8 million for Haiti. Another boasts capturing thousands of new email addresses. The next generation of (museum goers, theater patrons and young entrepreneurs) deserves your support. Oh and don’t forget, its 100% tax deductible.

Send that good feeling gift online, just click here, and choose your cause. You can be clicking til the ball drops.

The advantages are many. You can instill responsibility for your city, you religion, your neighborhood and those who have less. You can motivate those little kids who man their lemonade stands in the summer, or the moms who bake delectable delights for the church bake sales. You can get on the phone and call people, ask them to give. These do-good activities do make a difference. They make us feel good, like we are being proactive, we are doing something.

This year there are many who do have less, but most of them do not fall into the category of the arts, the schools or even the homeless. I have not seen one campaign for those who have lost their homes due to the mortgage bubble that exploded. I have not seen any campaigns for those whose lifestyle imploded due to loss of jobs and their own dignity.

In direct contrast we have the retailers who want us to buy now, buy fast, hurry this sale will not last!

What’s the answer? Collaboration? Will not happen. Improved economy? Not this year. Less new causes? Doubtful. Giving? Yes, that’s the only way. We cannot ignore the needs. We must give, give til it feels good. Know that even the “kitsch” phrases ring true. There are few new ways of asking. Only new ways of giving. Use them. Hurry the hours are slipping by.

But on the other hand, since you are reading this in 2011, it’s not too late. I promise you, they will still take your gifts. In spite of all the hoopla it’s not too late! And if you are a donor of multiple zeros, and care deeply about tax credits, well what can I say, you should done it earlier.

Sherri W. Morr has spent the last several decades working and consulting in the Jewish community as a fundraiser, a teacher, and trainer, most recently as Director of the Western U.S. at the Jewish National Fund for 12 years. She has completed an MA and received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Her work outside of the Jewish world at independent schools, the Baltimore Symphony and Tufts University have given her an awareness beyond practice in the Jewish community. Sherri has 3 grown sons and lives in San Francisco.