Burke: Dilemma in donations is in where to put your money

With a range of worthy causes — charitable and political — how should one weigh where the need is greatest?

By Tom Burke / Herald Columnist

I sorta missed giving on “Giving Tuesday” last week, despite The Herald editorial reminding me.

But I’m not missing all those appeals to “Please Give Now,” still appearing on TV or filling my inboxes; they’re everywhere. (For the record I “give” throughout the year, but understand how focusing on a single day, as Giving Tuesday does, can encourage people to pull out a checkbook, credit card or electronic payment product to donate to a worthy cause.)

But, gentle reader, here’s my dilemma: Which worthy cause, of all the causes there are, are the worthiest to give to?

And how much should I give?

And is the money I give well spent?

(For that last question, here are three excellent websites: www.propublica.org/article/how-to-evaluate-charity-before-you-donate for (duh) how to evaluate a charity and www.charitynavigator.org/ or www.charitywatch.org/ for places that do the evaluation for you.)

But back to my initial dilemma: who gets how much of my hard-earned dough; there’s so much real need out there.

Consider, the American Civil Liberties Union is defending our constitutional rights (they ask for just $19 a month but I think I get a T-shirt) and we’re gonna need them bad as MAGA rushes head-long into a dictatorship; St. Jude Hospital helps kids and families and was founded by beloved entertainer Danny Thomas (also asking for $19 monthly and I get another T-shirt); the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, asking for 63 cents a day ($19 a month) is a candidate for my largesse, because who can resist all those woe-begotten, sad-eyed dogs and kittycats on TV; and Habitat for Humanity seems a worthy cause; who doesn’t want to follow in Jimmy Carter’s footsteps?

Of course these aren’t the only causes asking for money via reasonably sophisticated marketing and advertising campaigns that range from gut-wrenching “flies-in-the-eyes” pictures of suffering kids and critters to endorsements from celebrities.

So there’s Doctors without Borders, Kids in Need of Desks, World Central Kitchens, Save the Children, OxFam America, World Vision, Cancer Care, the World Wildlife Federation, No Kid Hungry, the American Cancer Society, Covenant House, CARE, UNICEF, the Alzheimer’s Association, the USO, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

And locally consider Mary’s Place, the YMCA and YWCA, Union Gospel Mission, local pet shelters, Puget Soundkeeper, the United Way, public radio, and the Washington Trails Association.

The League of Women Voters needs funding; and, speaking of politics:

It’s an arena for yet more dilemma – first, how to split my donations between “charity” and “politics;” and then, how much to contribute to national campaigns (ala the Democratic National Committee); important, individual out-of-state races; and statewide/local candidates?

I mean, do I give to Sen. Jon Tester in Montana or Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, (for control of the Senate); or to Democrats to win back the House (ie. Colorado’s 5th, the district of Rep. Lauren “Grope and Vape” Boebert) and how much to give to keep a Republican or MAGA governor out of Olympia?

Oh yeah, I also gotta decide how much I can help keep Trump out of the White House; and that’s how much the Biden campaign gets.

Ya know, back in the day, when I was in the advertising business making TV commercials and radio spots, we were fighting for “share-of-belly” (fast food) or share of wallet (banks and insurance).

But charitable and political giving is much more complex because charities only get their share of wallet after everyone else, because folks need car, homeowners and life insurance, their mortgage or rent payment; plus doctor bills, clothes and medicine, and food on the table, and a lot more.

So while consumer marketers simply have to convince the buyer they’re better than their competitors (Big Mac or Whopper? Geico’s gekko or Liberty’s emu?); charities have to both convince the target to forgo discretionary spending choices so they can afford to give (not buy the latest video game?) and then do battle to secure the donation for themselves.

For me, the choice of who to give to and how much to give is both daunting and uplifting.

I am daunted because there is so, so much need in the world today; and uplifted because I can do a little something to help ameliorate that need.

I am overwhelmed I have to put so much money into politics — not to support who has the better idea for national health care or an immigration policy (like in the “old” days) — but to defend the very idea of democracy from authoritarian-dictator-wanna-be candidates who want to overturn the Constitution, or impose a right-wing Christian theocracy, or just to steal as much as they can; and I’m uplifted when I see the anti-MAGA forces I support win.

I know prudent personal fiscal policy should have me sitting down doing a year-long budget and allocating X dollars to charity and Y dollars to politics. Or maybe just biblically tithing.

But I doubt I’ll do that.

Instead, I’ll watch the commercials and read the ads then succumb to the best heartstrings-tugging pitch or dire warning of impending doom, write a check, and then figure out how to pay for it.

So I currently support KNKX radio (jazz and public radio), Biden, Tester, the Y, and World Central Kitchens; and I’ll wait ‘till next year for the big political stuff. Now wadda ya say we give Mark Twain the last charitable word here: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Which means I probably need to add the Hearing Health Foundation or Seattle DeafBlind Service Center to my list of who to consider.

Damn. Where’s a MEGA-Millions win when so many need so much?

Slava Ukraini.

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com.

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