During the first five months of 2019, I received 3,107 pieces of mail from 158 charitable organizations. This averaged somewhere around 20 such items each day, not counting Sundays and holidays. The majority were requests for donations, but some were newsletters that arrived at intervals from weekly to quarterly. A few were to variations of my name (a copy to Edra C. Bogle and one to Edna Vogel, maybe).
A total of $14.66 was enclosed in these, varying from 3 cents to $1 in amount. Thirteen sets of personalized address labels were enclosed, and two other sets that spelled my name wrong. Larger “free gifts” included three cloth bags suitable for groceries, two cloth caps, two knit caps, a military cap (WASPs), one set of garden gloves, and a set with a pen, small computer and another military cap. (During the winter of 2018, a total of 27 wall calendars and four pocket calendars were received, as well as nine sets of blank Christmas cards with envelopes.) Greeting cards for other occasions were also received, but I have already given them to two retirement homes and do not have a proper record.
Why so much? Because I was raised in northwest Iowa by a loving but strict Seventh-day Adventist grandmother who taught me to tithe my tiny income, usually consisting of an allowance of a few dollars a month, and in the summer what I made by selling to fishermen night crawlers that I collected. (Our small frame house was on a major route to Lake Okoboji.) There were no SDA churches closer than 125 miles, so I was taught to donate to charities instead. I have continued to do so all my life in one way or another.
After some research, I discovered that each piece of mail averages just less than 10 cents to send out, counting postage, materials and labor. So in these five months, around $300 was spent this way. I donated about $135 to these groups, leaving them at least $165 in the hole. However, most of my giving is not as a result of these solicitations, but rather I sent over $600 to groups of my own choosing, including, of course, strong overlap, but their money is still wasted. I also cannot guess how many other items these charities have to spend for — Rent? Training? Compiling lists?
So what is my point? Well, many of my friends report receiving similar mail and throwing it away without opening it. There’s no way of telling just how much these groups waste on such mailings, though of course each one justifies them to its members (including the staff).
Meanwhile, we read of generous gifts by the wealthy, such as awarding scholarships for higher education (I give one annually myself); children who cannot even afford to go to a doctor, let alone receive serious care if it is needed; people who are given free meals by charities but cannot afford regular meals at home (if they have a home); and many other worthy deeds that help a few a little.
Would it not be better to raise taxes on those who can afford to help out these people, without the wasted money, inevitable lack of proper care, not only for the poor but for the middle class when an unexpected serious problem occurs, and the shame some of all three groups sometimes feel?
Please don’t think of this as socialism. The founders of this country took care not only of themselves but of the people they found already living on this continent. During the following decades, roads were built for all to use, and later railroads. Public schools were established when land had been dealt out equitably, starting with one-room frame buildings for the lower grades, where children were taught by women with only a high school education, but improving each decade in both content and quality of training.
And if you or your children have ever read the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series, let me reassure you it closely matches the tales of her childhood in Iowa, as told to me by an elderly family member.