Tag Archives: Compassion fatigue

Charity Mail Update ..

Away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney for 9 days, I had forgotten about my unwanted mail – until we emptied the mail box.  Six mail deliveries contained five new letters in total:

  • Diabetes NSW
    • one double-sided letter telling me about a teenager with diabetes – my $50 “will really make a difference”.
    • A another double-sided page with a letter from said teenager telling her story along with a number of full colour photos.
    • Another page for completion of my donation information. Boxes to tick if I would like to include Diabetes NSW in my will, or indicating that I have already done so. Perhaps I would like to give a regular gift each month?
    • A postage paid envelope in which to return my donation.
    • But – there is hope yet – NO FREE GIFTS!
  • St Vincent de Paul Society –
    • a double-sided letter from the President of the NSW State Council of the Society with a very sad story about a caring grandmother and her young granddaughter and how Vinnies were able to help.
    • Another page for the donation details –  but on the back, after a blurb entitled “Your Privacy” were two boxes – one to indicate if I did not want further communications from St Vinnies, and another to tick  if “you do NOT want to receive communications from other organisations” – confirmation of the sharing of mailing lists between charities.
    • A postage paid envelope for my donation.
    • A double-sided full  colour folded page with photos illustrating the work that Vinnies does and reminding me that I might like to assist with a gift.
    • Another full colour page with photos, retelling the grandmother’s need and how Vinnies had helped and asking for me to help them keep families together by sending a gift today.
    • Having  just told me that my “gift will make an incredible difference” , there is a gift for ME! A  sheet of 9 full colour personal address labels for use on my postage. The illustration on each is of the sky with ‘God’s light” beaming down.
    • Another small “God’s light” card with a prayer on the back giving thanks to God for the morning light, rest and shelter, health and food, love and friends, for “everything your goodness sends”.  It is a shame that goodness isn’t spread more evenly around the community and the world.
  • Amnesty International –
    • Three and a half pages (printed double-sided) from the national Refugee Coordinator about the plight of refugee children in Syria, with personal stories of the experiences of some children.
    • A page for donation details including a box to tick  if I don’t want to receive any more mailings, and a box to tick if I want more information about leaving a gift in my Will.
    • A postage paid envelope for my donation.
    • A postcard calling for action by recipients to urge the Minister for Immigration to increase resettlement and humanitarian places for Syrian refugees.
    • A full colour double-sided “Notes from the Field” with photos outlining the work still to be done.
    • A small colour booklet (one A4 page double-sided printed equivalent)  with photos outlining the difficulties for refugee Syrian children.
  • Make A Wish Australia –
    • A mid-sized envelope – “There’s something for you inside” printed on the outside. 
    • A  2 page,  double sided printed, letter from the CEO about children in pain and the difference a $20 gift can make  – “a life changing difference”  – and the need to raise more funds so that children do not miss out on having their wish granted.
    • A full-page for the donation details.
    • The back of the donation page has the same blurb as the St Vinnie’s: two boxes – one to indicate if I did not want further communications from St Vinnies, and another to tick  if “you do NOT want to receive communications from other organisations”. So it would appear that the charities also contract out the fund-raising to a third-party????? How much of the funds raised actually goes to the people in whose name it is being raised????
    • A postage paid envelope for my donation.
    • A full colour page with photographs and vignettes of various children and their traumas.
    • A one page equivalent story with full colour and photographs of a child whose wish was granted.
    • A gift for me, “with our best wishes” – namely four coloured cards and coloured envelopes.
  • Starlight Children’s Foundation –
    •  Another  mid-sized envelope 
    • A full colour double-sided printed sheet with a letter from the CEO requesting a gift of $40 and a heart breaking story of a young child with hydrocephalus.
    • A single page for the donation details.
    • The back of this page has a similar but slightly different blurb with the two boxes to tick – one for no further mailings from this charity and another box prefaced by: “Occasionally we allow like-minded organisations to contact you with information that may be of interest to you, including some organisations located outside Australia. These organisations allow us to do the same and this way we can reach more people with vital information”.
    • A postage paid envelope for my donation.
    • A small full colour booklet with photos and the story of “My Starlight Wish” by a young girl.
    • A magnetic “Don’t Forget” note pad to hang on the frig.
    • A page of “Starlight labels” for me to use in many ways.
    • 2 cards covered in stars with envelopes for my use.

Who’s been getting mail?

Why, me, that’s who. Today it’s the Stroke Foundation. A letter from the CEO, a pamphlet on strokes, a two page letter from a young stroke survivor, and some – address labels in my name …  a very modest offering indeed for a change.

Also an approach by some people collecting for UNICEF outside the supermarket.

NB Just because I’m listing charities here, doesn’t mean that I’m again them – included are the ones that I donate to or have donated to.

Here comes another one … just like the other ones ….

Today the mail contained a letter from the charity Youth Off the Streets.  It contained a newsletter, a letter from a young person who was helped by the charity, a very large magnetic frig magnet to remind me of the charity and its work, a bookmark for a similar purpose, a 4 page letter (2 pages double-sided print) from father Chris Riley, seeking donations,  another page to complete  with the donation details and a pre-paid self-addressed envelope.

Please don’t think I’m not conscious of the need out there in the community, here and overseas – especially since the current government has so kindly cut off the funding they used to provide to the many agencies picking up the short fall in government services – short sightedness compounded by madness in my view. But there must be a better way to do this.

Still Fatigued

Sometimes our own smarty pants behaviour comes back to haunt us – having returned numerous envelopes containing gifts and ‘freebies’ to the places from whence they came, I now seem to be getting phone calls inviting me to part with ‘donations’ by way of raffles and other means. I’d rather have the mail-outs except that the waste of donated money annoys me – severely.

I seem to have little piles of envelopes all over the house waiting for me to deal with. The pile that  is presently in front of me contain appeals from:

  • Seeing Eye Dogs
  • Hunter Medical Research Institute
  • International Fund for Animal Welfare (free gift enclosed)
  • Autism Spectrum (very firm and fat cardboard envelope that had GrandPa Flea queueing in the post office to collect – he was not amused)
  • Vision Australia (see above – also fat and firm envelope to be queued for – again not amused)
  • World Wildlife Fund (also fat envelope but soft so delivered)
  • Children’s Cancer Institute (fat, firm envelope but delivered)

These are in addition to the charities that we currently support. I might have mentioned this in the last post, but the Garvan Institute, which we support, asks its donors how many appeals they would like to receive each year. I’ve nominated twice a year and apart from the newsletter, that is what I receive. I wish other charities would take note – no wasted paper, no heart string tugging letters with my name mail merged throughout, no spending of donated funds on address labels, cards, pens, glasses cleaning cloths and shopping bags.

I’d like to know how much money is spent on ‘free gifts’ and the postage for same, by the not for profit sector, and the amount of  difference it makes to their fund-raising effort when their costs are taken out.

The phone callers are destined to disappointment  – I do not give money and personal details over the phone any more. I feel for the callers as they are just trying to make a living. I am always polite but am amazed by how many just hang up in my ear when they realise they will not make a commission on that call. I assume the particular charities involved don’t know that their reputation is being tarnished by that action.

I also rarely give donations at the door – for similar reasons to my no phone donations policy. The callers may have ID but I am becoming less inclined to trust as I grow older.

The other day I did make an exception for the collectors for money for the Special Olympics. I am very fond of a young lady who has  benefitted from her participation in  the Special Olympics and I had decided that, despite my policy,  I would give a donation as I hadn’t noticed the appeal advertised anywhere.

The young woman then did her spiel about Coles sponsoring the appeal including the fact that donors would receive vouchers to the value of their donation to be used at Coles Express. The donation options were $10, $50, up to $1,000. These vouchers are like the cards, pens, notepads etc that accompany mail appeals – of no interest to me.  Later in the day when I looked at the receipt I was very surprised to read that the donation was not what it appeared to be – I hadn’t made a donation at all – I had purchased vouchers to that value.

It was a very slick marketing ploy and Coles’  “sponsorship” would, I imagine, cost them very little. The vouchers had to be used within a few weeks and were limited to two a day. I would hazard a guess that the majority would never be redeemed – mine certainly won’t be. In truth, it made me have a bit of a giggle – I wondered how many people   who patronise Coles Express had fallen for the ploy and had made a large donation  – they would be hard pressed to  spend several hundred dollars in the time allowed with the restrictions placed on the purchases.

I can’t recall if the young woman used the word ‘donation’ to me – but it was certainly implied. The receipt made it very clear as it stated that receipt was not to be used for tax purposes as goods had been received for the payment.

I’m afraid that this has made me even more hard-line about which charities I’ll support and how I will give those donations. The whole thing had a Tony Abbott ring about it – do you remember when, after he became PM,  he made one of his statements that the electorate only thought that one particular promise had been made when it hadn’t. Weasel words.

Does anyone else out there feel harried and harassed by the numerous appeals to their generosity?

Compassion Fatigue

The media is full of horrifying stories of the suffering of people in countries at war with each other, or at war with militant religious groups who are trying to impose their rule on everyone regardless of their beliefs; of people starving because of famine, floods and other natural disasters; of people dying from the Ebola virus and other deadly multi-drug resistant diseases like malaria and tuberculosis; of children working in sweatshops from an early age or being sold or prostituted to provide money for food for the remaining family members. It would be a hard hearted person who did not feel enormous concern and compassion for these people, especially for the women and children who are often the innocent victims. There are charities and other groups who solicit donations to help these people.

Then there are the problems closer to home – our first people and their children many of whom live in third world conditions with all the accompanying problems; people black and white, young and old sleeping on the streets because of homelessness, mental illness, addiction or all three, and often because of the lack of sufficient appropriate social housing and living facilities; women and children fleeing domestic violence often with only the clothes on their backs; the families who are doing it really tough because of tragedy, retrenchment, inability to get paid employment or enough paid employment, or because of problems with gambling and drug addiction; children unable to get a proper education for a myriad of reasons. Again it would be a hard hearted person or one lacking in insight who did not feel enormous compassion for these individuals and families. There are also charities and other groups who solicit donations to help these people.

But that’s not all – there are the myriad illnesses and medical conditions from which children and adults suffer. All worthy of support and needing support for research into treatments and cures; for money to provide appropriate care and/or living facilities to make life easier and to enable them to reach their potential with the best quality of life that is possible. Charities and Foundations pick up the shortfall when the funding provided by government is insufficient but the funding from government is always insufficient and the charities and government departments are always struggling.

This only scratches the surface of the pool of needy organisations and people out there. Each of the organisations dealing with these problems needs money and the available grants etc are insufficient for the need. For most of my adult life I have felt guilty that I cannot possibly donate to all – short of being a Mother Theresa, selling all my worldly possessions and devoting my life to the needs of the world I guess the guilt will continue. However, every few years the requests that are addressed to me by mail or by name over the telephone build up to the point where I feel like moving into a bunker and ignoring them all.

Many of these requests are accompanied by two or three page letters with heart wrenching stories of the people in need. Some are accompanied by a letter and newsletters with stories of the benefits or outcomes that donations have made possible. The majority of them have liberal use of my first name scattered throughout the appeal. There is always a reply paid envelope and a donation form. The majority have ‘gifts’ included – cards and envelopes, address labels, notepads, sticky notes and in one recent case a very colourful large zippered bag. All these letters, gifts etc have a cost attached to produce and mail.

The requests always increase at times of greater need – towards winter and at Christmas time. In the last fortnight I have received nearly two dozen such requests with a combined weight of close to one kilogram.

To top it all off, I have NEVER heard of some of these charities – in one instance I had to google the initials
under which it made its request and then consult the register of charities to clarify exactly who the group was. And, I had never, ever heard of it previously.

I spell my name in two different ways – one way on the electoral register and other legal documents and a different way otherwise. I also have two addresses – a post office box and a street address. I receive mail under both spellings and to both addresses. My name is not in the telephone directory, only my husband’s. Quite obviously the electoral register is used by these groups to compile mailing lists and in many cases when donations are made, the donor lists are sold to other bodies.

I no longer feel guilty about failing to donate to all – instead I am suffering what is referred to as ‘compassion fatigue’. I have reached the point where I resent the demands that are being made willy nilly on me.

I now:
* never donate to calls by telephone. If I want to support that charity I ask for a mailing (which I am happy to accept)

* never donate to charities whose call centre people hang up in my ear when I tell them I am not interested at present

* never give money to people collecting in the street or at the door. I am happy to accept a brochure to read and consider at my leisure

* never donate to charities whose cold callers at the door are rude, or, as in a recent case where I live, bang on the doors loudly and jump around in a frenzy when the door is opened. This gave me a start, but really frightened some of the older folk in our complex.

* RTS any mail that contains a ‘gift’ with a request to be removed from their mailing list and a note that I will never donate to charities which waste donations in that way.

* RTS those mailings which I don’t wish to support with a request to be removed from the mailing list.

Do I still donate to charities? Of course, but I now support a few with larger donations rather than spread small amounts over a larger number.

Does this have any effect on the unsupported charities? One person’s action certainly won’t, but when charities complain about the lack of giving, they would do well to remember that they may be the cause. Other people may be feeling the same as I do.