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Everyone wants a small donation

By Staff | Jan 13, 2013

I once interviewed an elderly woman in Blue Earth who had a problem.

She had a huge stack of mail on her kitchen table and it was all requests for money. Some were from charities, many from television evangelists, a few from political parties.

Her problem?

She didn’t have enough money in her checking account to pay her own bills, and she still wanted to send out checks to donate to those who wrote to her.

She wanted my advice. Which ones should she send money to, she asked.

I told her to throw them all away both physically into the trash can, and mentally and emotionally from her mind.

It’s a common problem these days. Give money to one charity, and it seems they will share your name with other ones and soon you will be inundated with requests.

That’s what has happened to retired Blue Earth dentist Dr. Jerry Thoreson.

He is receiving hundreds of letters every year asking him to make a donation to some worthy cause or other.

When Thoreson says he receives hundreds of letters in a year, he is not exaggerating. In January of 2012 he decided to start keeping track of all of them.

By the end of the year he had received 305 letters. And, he might have missed a couple, since he isn’t sure when he started saving them last January.

Thoreson has them all categorized as well.

Topping the list is the Alzheimers foundation, with 29 requests more than a two per month average. That is because Thoreson has donated to the charity in the past.

Other multiple requesting organizations include March of Dimes (19 letters), Veterans of Foreign Wars (16), Disabled American Veterans (11), Salvation Army (11), American Heart Association (10), Habitat for Humanity (10) and Easter Seals (9).

Twin Cities Public TV and Special Olympics tied at eight letters each. Many more were at the two to six letter range.

He received 14 letters from seven different cancer research organizations, from the American Cancer Society to the National Foundation of Cancer Research, from the Mayo Cancer Research Center to the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Susan G. Komen Cancer Center.

In all, Thoreson’s 305 requests came from more than 65 different organizations or groups or funds. And 32 of those sent more than one letter.

His total of 305 isn’t quite a one per day average for a 365 day year. But, he does point out that he only receives mail about 252 days out of the year due to holidays and Sundays, so his average is actually that he is receiving more than one per each mail delivery.

I don’t know about you, but I think that is outrageous. Sure, groups need to raise money. But this seems a bit like overkill bordering on harassment.

And, think of the time, effort and postage needed to send out this type of mass, repeated mailings.

Thoreson also wonders how to determine which of these outfits are actually deserving and which should he send donations to.

My suggestion was to do research on any charity before making any donation.

Which brings up another point.

The Blue Earth Kiwanis Club received some information about UNICEF, which the club supports with Halloween Trick-or-Treat donation solicitation.

The information, dealing with the size of the UNICEF CEO’s salary and his luxury car, was part of an email that is making the rounds about charities and how much of the money donated to them actually goes towards the cause at hand or doesn’t go there.

Much, if not all, of the information in the email was wrong.

For instance, the UNICEF CEO salary was one fourth what had been stated and he does not get a free Rolls Royce.

There are legitimate sites to go to find out how different charities are actually rated. I strongly urge you to check them out before making a donation.

If you are not computer savvy, ask any third grader to help you out.

Or, my other advice is to donate locally. Give to your church, your school’s foundation, your city United Way, the Interfaith Caregivers of Faribault County, historical society, hospice, well, you get the idea.

Keep it local and you can be pretty assured that your dollars are going to do some good for the community that has done many things for you.

Back to Dr. Thoreson, he is unsure whether he will continue to track the donation requests for another year. Or just toss them away unopened.

His first one for 2013 came on Jan. 3, just the second day of the year that he received mail.

It came from a new cancer research group and they asked for just $10 to help them cure cancer.

Seems like a pretty good deal to me.