Do You Have 'Charity Fatigue?'

From the ubiquitous red kettles to the option to round up to the nearest dollar at the register, there are many requests for consumers' charity this season.


It's rare to go through a checkout line without being asked for a donation. At PetSmart it's for animals; at Wendy's it's for adoption; at the Dollar Tree Store it's toys for military kids. And, let's not forget the jingle of the Salvation Army bell that sends many of us digging into our pockets.

It's true, needs are increasing yearly. One viewpoint is that if you're out shopping anyway, parting with an extra dollar here and there likely has little affect on your wallet—and if others do the same, the sum of all the small donations can make a big difference. 

But how do you decide when your donations are enough? Do you have to give each time to feel like you've helped? How do you walk through the cold past that kettle and the ringer of the bell one Facebook fan of Patch referred to as "the bell of guilt," and not feel like a cheapskate?

Donations can add up and some people are tired of it.

Facebook user Adam posted this earlier in the week: "I'll go on record as saying that I hate this. After all, they are the ones making money on the transaction yet I'm the one being asked to donate. The snarky part of me wants to ask them if they'd like to donate the profit they just made from me to the charity in question."

Another Facebook user, Jess, said: "Everywhere I go they ask. It's overwhelming at times."

And it's not just on Facebook that people are complaining or questioning these in-your-face fundraising tactics. Columnist Sean Gonsalves wrote in the Cape Cod Times this week that he is starting to wonder if his "empathy muscle has atrophied."

Gonsalves said he is being bombarded in snail mail, email and most recently at his trip to the drive-thru. He refers to his feeling as "charity fatigue."

What do you think? Are you suffering from "charity fatigue?" Tell us in the comments.

Tivie December 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM
I don't mind the Salvation Army bell ringers, because I know what they do. But this year it does seem like more stores are having counter clerks ask you for a donation, rather than just having a collection jar. Today in Fall River I was asked to donate to a Boston charity. I try to do most of my shopping at small and local stores, and when I give to charity, prefer to give to small and very local ones too. The Tiverton and Little Compton food banks need donations too. Maybe it's an efficient way to aggregate lots of little donations, but it does seem just slightly pushy, and I wonder if some people with limited funds might have trouble saying no. I put it in the same class as those office co-worker gifts and home-based sales "parties," that leverage social situations for your "voluntary" support. Not the worst, but not the best. The worst are those phone calls from so-called charities supporting police associations. Many of these are shady groups that do not operate according to standard charity ethical guidelines. You can tell them immediately when they say "for your protection we are recording this call." This is meant to scare people because they think the police won't help them if they don't donate. Always politely ask if you may also record the call, and ask how much of your donation will go to the police, and if you can get that in writing. They hang up fast.


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