To give or not to give, that is the question

Does it annoy you when the cashier at Whole Foods asks if you want to donate or receive bag credit? Are you equally uncomfortable giving to panhandlers or not giving? It seems like we’re barraged by requests for donations at all levels—radio stations, mail, email, walking down the street, in random stores.

I decided to do what the big guys do, come up with a coherent policy that made sense to me against which I could weigh all these requests.  Larry sez: People do what they are paid to do. So for what it’s worth, here’s my policy. It gives me a path through those myriad requests for money:
I don’t give to panhandlers. I give to anyone playing a musical instrument or other attempt at entertainment, and the people who sell the street newspaper.  The only exception I’ve made was a singer in the NY subway who I passed on a regular basis and wanted to encourage to QUIT! The other day, I passed a very pregnant woman with a sign “Traveling, broke, hungry.” I gave her an orange. I guess that counts as an exception, too. When I don’t give, I make eye contact, nod, and say, “Not today.”

I set aside what seems to me a reasonable amount of money each year, and make two or three major donations to the organizations I most want to support. I take a smaller amount and make small gifts to support a broader set of organizations. This includes public radio and TV stations, but I never support them during pledge drives. I think they should find a better way. (People do what they are paid to do.)

The biggest shift was a decision to use Goodsearch for my standard searches. To make it easier, I bookmarked the site in my Bookmarks Bar. I like the idea of a few tenths or even hundredths of cent going to my designated non-profit, and even have gotten a few non-profits to sign up with them. After I got used to it, it seemed every bit as good as Google, and a better model.

And finally, I got involved in some activities in my community. I’m on the board of my local Farmer’s Market, and have volunteered a few times at the elementary school. I’m thinking of putting together an introduction to poetry—a 45-minute class I could give as a starter unit with short, lively poems like these:

Spit straight up.
Learn something.

Robert Hass

“Why is it,” he said, “that no matter what you say,
a woman always takes it personally?”

“I never do,” she said

Lew Welch

In any case, it feels good to have come up with a plan, so that I can comfortably claim my bag credit at Whole Foods; I prefer to choose my own causes! Of course, my policy is always subject to revision. Any suggestions?

3 thoughts on “To give or not to give, that is the question

  1. I have no alternatives to offer for this well-thought out plan. Thanks for articulating what so many of us feel but don’t always have words for.

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