Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Business

All this stuff came from charities: Aren’t we supposed to give to them?

Many charities hand out swag to potential donors they hope will give year after year.
Charity swag - calendars, wrapping paper, pens and other items charities sent to one person this year as an inducement to  donate. [Susan Taylor Martin]
Charity swag - calendars, wrapping paper, pens and other items charities sent to one person this year as an inducement to donate. [Susan Taylor Martin]
Published Dec. 25, 2019

On the fourth day of Christmas a charity gave to me:

Four sheets of stickers

Three pads of paper

Two pocket planners

And a booklet with healthy recipes

Charity giving hits its peak in the three months leading up to Christmas and New Year’s, but it often seems that charities do a lot of giving themselves. Pens, note pads, personalized address labels — if it’s easy to mail, chances are some charity has sent it out as an inducement.

“It can be a very expensive form of fundraising but it helps get access to someone who might want to donate,” said Ashley Post of Charity Navigator, a watchdog group that rates more than 9,000 charities.

Studies have shown that a charity loses about half of its contributors each year so it constantly needs to replenish its donor base. The goal is to get a donor to contribute at least twice: “Once a donor makes a second gift, there is a greater sense of loyalty," Post said. To build loyalty — and get more and bigger donations — charities often send out those little gifts.

Over the past few months, this reporter has received solicitations from 23 different charities and other nonprofits, all with at least one gift. The loot included six calendars, two Old Farmer’s Almanacs, 85 greeting cards (with envelopes), two bookmarks, a calculator, a poster-size map of the United States and enough sheets of wrapping paper to cover a wall. Plus, a tote bag in which to carry it all.

Just because a charity sends a gift, there’s no obligation to donate. However, many people do send at least a few dollars, if only out of a sense of guilt for using those handy address labels. But Charity Navigator and other watchdog groups say it’s better to make bigger donations to a few organizations whose work you especially admire rather than little donations to a lot of disparate groups.

With some exceptions, charities and other non-profits must file annual financial reports, called Form 990s, with the Internal Revenue Service. Using data culled from those, Charity Navigator’s web site rates organizations from zero to four stars — four showing the highest levels of transparency, accountability and appropriate use of finances. As a rule of thumb, a charity should invest at least 75 percent of its donations on programs and services for the cause it espouses.

The Blackbaud Institute, which monitors charitable giving, sees evidence that charities are cutting back on the gifts they send in favor of touting results.

“Today’s modern donor wants to hear how their gift is making an impact and is less interested in the incentives to donate,” said Steven R. MacLaughlin, an institute vice president. Hence campaigns showing refugee kids receiving medical care and Habitat for Humanity volunteers building houses.

The majority of giving still goes to religious, higher education and health charities. But “fundraising is a changing landscape,” MacLaughlin said, and the past decade has seen an increase in giving to nonprofits that support animal, environmental, international and human rights-focused causes.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. The sub station takes center stage at the new West Shore Publix supermarket opening on Thursday. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  2. Tampa Park Apartments is on property between downtown and Ybor City, at East Scott Street and Nuccio Parkway. [Times (2018)]
  3. Hyde House in Hyde Park Village on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 in Tampa.  [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
  4. FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2019, file photo, Disney CEO Robert Iger arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker", in Los Angeles  The Walt Disney Co. has named Bob Chapek CEO, replacing Bob Iger, effective immediately, the company announced Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.  (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, FIle) [JORDAN STRAUSS  |  Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]
  5. In this June 17, 2019, file photo, a cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco. Investigators from 39 states will look into the marketing and sales of vaping products by Juul Labs, including whether the company targeted youths and made misleading claims about nicotine content in its devices, officials announced Tuesday. Juul released a statement saying it has halted television, print and digital advertising and eliminated most flavors in response to concerns by government officials and others.  (AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado, File) [SAMANTHA MALDONADO  |  AP]
  6. St. Petersburg-based Jabil said Tuesday it's projecting that the spread of the coronavirus will hurt its second-quarter performance. [Handout photo]
  7. The future site of Green Light Cinema at 221 Second Ave on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The art house theater will be nestled between Pour Taproom and 2nd & Second. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
  8. Keesha Benson is director of Thrive By Five Pinellas for the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas. (Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas photo) [Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County]
  9. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute purchased 775 acres in central Pasco County for a planned expansion. TIMES [VYCELLIX, A SWEDISH CANCER THERAPY RESEARCH COMPANY, IS SETTING UP ITS U.S. HEADQUARTERS NEAR THE H. LEE MOFFITT CANCER CENTER & RESEARCH INSTITUTE IN TAMPA. (TIMES FILES]
  10. Trader Gregory Rowe works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday. Stocks are opening sharply lower on Wall Street, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 700 points, as virus cases spread beyond China, threatening to disrupt the global economy. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) [RICHARD DREW  |  AP]
  11. [Getty Images] [Getty Images]
  12. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik  [Times staff]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement