Charity Starts at Home

Bill Neinast

If my mail box is typical, the U.S. Postal Service has no fear of imploding for lack of business.  My large box overflows at least twice a week with delivered mail.  

This is not a scientific or precise count, but 60-75% of the volume is catalogs for everything imaginable.  If the catalogs from some of the companies were kept for a year, the stacks would probably be four times higher than the combined thickness of the biannual Sears and Roebucks or Montgomery Ward catalogs of old.

Most of the rest of the overflow is made up of solicitations for contributions.  Some are from political candidates or causes, many of whom I have not heard of before.  The rest are from charities, again some of which I am unaware. 

Many of the charity solicitations are from veterans organizations.  For a while, I thought there was one organization for each man and woman who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Those solicitations included so many return address labels and note pads that there will be a large pile to shred or burn after my funeral somewhere down the road.

My mail box, however, has never held a solicitation from the Wounded Warrior Project.  There was no need for a written appeal because my TV screen bled with the Project’s video appeals.

These are the ads picturing severely injured veterans being described by saccharine voiced commentators.

The ads were so disturbing that I began to switch TV channels whenever one began to run.  The concern was not about the injuries and pain depicted, but the narrative was disturbing.  Every aid and assistance shown was something that would have been provided by either the Department of Defense or the Veterans Administration.  The soothing narrative indicated, however, that this was what was coming from WWP.

One day, I called the toll free number included in the TV ads to ask about what WWP did for wounded veterans.  The woman who took the call could not answer my questions.  She really did not know what WWP did other than “assist veterans.”

My next stop was the internet.  The web site for WWP is about as helpful as the TV ads.  Apparently there are some academic scholarships and direct financial aids for post 9/11 wounded veterans and their families, but most of the effort seems to be furnishing moral support.  WWP also uses some of its funds for donations to other veterans’ charities like the Fisher House Foundation. 

Also of interest was noting that for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2012, WWP spent 26 million dollars on management and fund raising. That left only 55% of its income for assisting veterans.  

WWP may be an outstanding organization.  It has some exceptional individuals as Directors and on its Executive Staff.  The inescapable fact, however, is that only 55¢ of every dollar contributed goes to the aid of veterans.

There are a multitude of other charities and nonprofit organizations out there begging for money.  Some make their pleas by mail, others by TV, and some by both.  In every case, I ask, “How much did this solicitation cost?  If the organization spends that much on fundraising, how much is available for its cause?”

So here’s the perspective.

Remember the words of wisdom that charity starts at home. There are many excellent nonprofit organizations in our own back yards.  Each exists and functions almost exclusively on donations.

Some provide aid and assistance, including financial, to the needy.  Others provide entertainment, education, and physical activities for all with an interest or need.

There is a temptation to list the good works being done locally.  Invariably, however, one or more of the best would be forgotten or overlooked.  So I will leave building the list to you.

In making your list, you will realize that when supporting a local charity you know exactly how and where the money is being spent.  You can assure yourself that more than 55¢ of every dollar you contribute is being spent on what you want.

Charity does start at home.


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