Dear Christmas Charities

Dear various groups of needy children, hospital patients, veterans, abandoned pets, sick nuns, lonely old people and lost souls.

I understand that we have entered the season of giving.

Believe me, I give.

I shop regularly at Unicef Market, where everything I buy provides food, water and medicine to kids around the world. I donate to my local food bank and to programs for homeless folks in my community. I really do try to be as generous as I can to as many causes as I can.

But here’s where I absolutely draw the line and will not cough up one single tiny coppery penny.

If you send me an unsolicited envelope full of swag, and then expect me to “donate” as a way of paying for it, you can just fuggedaboudit.

Want to see what I got in the mail today, along with a fake letter from a little child supposedly named “Joseph”? I got this:

I will not name this “charity,” but it is supposed to be raising funds for children in need. According the enclosed paperwork, the money is desperately needed for the education, shelter and care of these young ones.

M’Kay… why did they spend the money to send me a dreamcatcher, three notepads, a set of Christmas stickers, a page of return address labels, a pen, a page of Christmas gift tags, four Christmas cards (individually wrapped) and a freakin’ pair of kids gloves?

ALL of it wrapped in cellophane, decorated, and packaged along with 5 pages of paperwork and the “letter” from Joseph.

It makes me sick.

In order to actually raise money for these kids (if in fact there are any kids), the organization would need to offset the costs of all of this swag, plus the printing, plus the postage.

I estimate that my package alone cost in the area of five dollars. I’d have to donate six for them to get any profit, right?

But if they sent our one package to every household on my street, that would be 20 houses for $100. I know that one house is empty, so that’s a loss. I believe that most people toss out junk mail, so perhaps 10% would send in a donation.

If they are that lucky, and 10% donate ten bucks, they break even.

But if they just sent the information, and maybe a link to a website, that same $100 donation would give them a good return, right?

So why do these groups do this? Why do they send out huge packages of unwanted stuff to complete strangers around the country?

Because of guilt.

They are relying on the fact that most people are good and decent and don’t want to take something without giving back. They are counting on the idea that enough of us will think, “Gosh, a pair of gloves! And all these pretty stickers! I need to send them at least something…..”

Not this wise old woman. I am not falling for that trick.

Instead, I will keep every one of the unsolicited goodies and will put them to good use.

Then I’ll take the estimated value, add in a donation amount, and send the money to Unicef.


One of the things I always enjoy on Sunday mornings is sitting back with my coffee to watch the political talk shows.  I’m sort of a news junkie, and I am fascinated by international relations. I’m always intrigued by the reactions of American politicians to events around the world.

I hear a lot of talk about ‘American values’ on these shows.

This morning there was a moment when the placement of an ad brought those values into very sharp focus for me.

I was watching Candy Crowley on CNN, talking to US politicians about the situation in Ukraine.  They were debating how we should respond, and the reactions were pretty typical and not very surprising.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Democrat) said that the President has reacted appropriately, and that we need to use diplomatic and economic pressures to try to influence Russia.   Sen. John McCain (Republican) said that the President was being “cowardly” and that he should immediately send weapons and military support to the Ukrainians.

So here we go again.  The battle cry is on.  “The US needs to send military support to Ukraine/Syria/Libya/Iraq/Afghanistan!!!”

Before I had a chance to really react, though, CNN took a break and an ad came on.  It featured the face of a tiny, wizened, beautiful African child, gazing into the camera with enormous eyes.

It was an ad for Unicef.  It showed us image after image of starving, dying children. It told us that for “Fifty cents a day”, we could save a life.

The babies looked like these:

flickr-6049797622-hd images-1

Fifty cents a day to support one of these children? Wow.

It got me thinking.  It got me wondering if John McCain or Dianne Feinstein would like to give more money to UNICEF. It got me wondering how much money the US Government does give to UNICEF.  It got me wondering how much the US government spends in a year on war.

So I did a little research.

My goodness.

The US Government allocated $132 million dollars to UNICEF in FY 2013.                           The US Government spent $92.3 billion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in FY 2013. Billion.  With a B!

Holy priorities, Batman.

I did a little more research.  Did you know that according to Charity Navigator, 91.1% of all money given to UNICEF goes directly to the needy? That’s a lot of babies who didn’t starve to death or die of water born illness.

Makes me wonder. If we could somehow improve the lives of families around the world, would the need for all this war decrease?

I know that’s a ridiculously simplistic notion.  Still, I wonder.

And as I go to the UNICEF webpage to make my donation, I think I’ll also write a letter to my Congressmen and Senators.  I will politely suggest that we refrain from spending even more money on weapons and war and shift our focus to education, food and healthcare around the world.