General Question

TheNakedHippie's avatar

Is there such thing as an inappropriate charitable donation?

Asked by TheNakedHippie (470points) October 10th, 2008

There’s a new Suntrust commercial that advertises their new promotion. When you open a checking account they will donate $100 to a charity or cause of your choice. In the commercial on the radio, the woman brags about donating the money to her church, and how that hundred dollars bought a choir member a new robe with gold trim.

This is ridiculous to me. With all the charities that take things overseas and $5 buys vaccinations for 10 kids or something, or it buys 15 kids school supplies, I could care less what robes the choir wears when i think about that.

A hundred dollars can go a long way if you want it to. Splurging on a frivolous robe is brainless to me.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

17 Answers

robmandu's avatar

So… not the donation itself, but how the recipient spends it? Yes, there certainly is inappropriate spending.

Bri_L's avatar

I sure wouldn’t have used that as an example of a donation for the commercial.

JackAdams's avatar

I don’t give to charities in a “conventional” way. Here is what I did with one of them:

I said, “I don’t want the money I give you to be used to pay for office supplies. Give me an invoice for a bona fide medical item, and I will pay it for you.”

They took me up on my offer, and sent me an invoice that they had gotten, for 300 petri dishes.

I wrote a check to their supplier for those dishes, enclosed a note that said, “Apply this to the account of [charity], please,” and mailed it directly to the supplier. The charity informed me that the supplier had properly credited their account, and I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had donated money to pay for medical stuff, and not paper clips or staplers.

Another time, I sent a charity a lottery ticket, and the charity informed me that they had actually won $100 with it, which was more than I was able to actually give them, at that time.
[Note: Charities WILL accept lottery tickets as donations, but you can only deduct the actual cost of the ticket, and not the prize won.]

In one community, I went down to the charity’s offices and said, “I’m here to apply for a job.”

They said, “We can’t use anyone, at this time.”

I replied, “You can use me, because my services are totally free.”

I worked in their offices for two years, and they gave me a letter attesting to the fact that I did so, and that I saved them several thousand dollars in wages that they didn’t have to pay to me, so my CPA could deduct that from my income taxes.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I can think of many examples of inappropriate charitable donations, but they have nothing to do with what you described in the details section.

One Example,

Your want your 22 year old son, John Smith to go to medical school at Xyz University, but his grades suck, so you donate 2 million to build the “Smith Center for Abc Research at xyz University”.

I would call that inappropriate.

TheNakedHippie's avatar

JackAdams: I love the lottery ticket idea in particular…

JackAdams's avatar

Those who live in VT-NH-MA can actually purchase a lottery ticket subscription for a charity located in those states. Just contact the TRI-STATE MEGABUCKS folks for details.

Your own state, if it has a lottery, may have such a purchase option.

Judi's avatar

Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 26 6–13
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.
“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

boxing's avatar

I like the idea of paying an invoice directly, but part of me thinks, that since your money goes 100% effective, a tiny little more of other donors’ money would have to pay for “office supplies”.

On lottery ticket, I think I am kind of selfish…

What if the ticket would have won 10 million? There is very little chance and that is why I seldom purchase lottery, but what if?

I have to admit that, if the ticket won 10 million, I might kick myself not to keep some of it. $100, $1000, or even $10,000, I will be just feel pure happiness about that donation.

There are about 5–10 charities I am supporting regularly, and they have relatively low expense ratio.

And to answer the question, yes, to me, a new robe with gold trim is inappropriate use of donation. But, I am not religious yet I can somewhat understand why the lady is proud of it.

jtvoar16's avatar

I would just like to point out I actually vomited on my keyboard when I read the inital statement about the robe. Hell, I don’t care that she gave it to her church, what peevs me is the fact the church didn’t immidatly give it to someone who needed it. Perhaps a partron needing money for a bill, or medicine. Even a young patron just going off to college. I agree with TheNakedHippie… A hundred dollors can go very far. The hypethetical college student could have used that to by clothing, or bedding, of better yet, food. Or perhaps the kind act of the church would inspire him to act thusly and he would give that hundred dollors to another who needed it more.
Oh, but then again you would have to believe in the “pay it forward” ideal of life, and let’s face it: America will never “pay it forward.”

JackAdams's avatar

One of the reasons I never give to ANY religion-based charity, is because of what happened to a gentleman in Houston, Texas, when I lived there from 1979–81:

This guy had attended the same church since he parents forced him to go there against his will, when he was too young to run away.

When he got into his 60s, his wife became deathly ill and he was desperate for money to keep her alive and for her to at least have a chance at life, and because his credit was not “good enough,” he turned to the church he had attended for over 60 years of his life and said to his pastor, “I’ve given several thousands of dollars to this church over the past 60 years, and have never refused any request you have made of me. I am now asking for you to loan me some of that money that I have given to you, so that I may try to save my wife, and I can have her with me for a few more years, please.”

The pastor, with no hestitation (and with no compassion) replied, “Sorry, but this isn’t First Presbyterian Savings & Loan; we’re a church.”

The old man got up and walked out, never to return to any church, ever again.

His wife died, then he committed suicide to be with her.

The outraged congregation fired that evil pastor, but the damage had already been irreparably done.

Noon's avatar

This is a horrendous moral lesson from the bible. You are saying that as long as you do charity in Jesus’ name that is good enough. Not only is it good enough, but that you should be encouraged to do charity in Jesus’ name for fame and recognition.

Mathew 26:13 “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

So this woman who decided to waste, what could have been a lot of money, on Jesus is now remembered for eternity?

Judi's avatar

The message is, that sometimes we are quick to rush to judgment. Churches have done awful things and misused money and I don’t argue that. I think that the message is that there is sometimes a higher purpose beyond our understanding.
The pastor jack refers to was cold and callous and didn’t represent the God I serve.
I am usually the first in my church to point out hypocrisy when I see it and I have not won to many popularity contests. Secretly though, some whisper words of gratitude for being brave enough to speak up.
The Bible is pretty clear too about your motives in giving. If you give for fame and recognition then fame and recognition is your reward, don’t expect any parades for your generosity in heaven.
The message is more about being judgemental than anything else.

basp's avatar

I always give directy to the charity avoiding middlemen like united way. And I only give to charitites that I know will use the $$ as intended. My job
puts me in contact with a lot
of charities because I audit
their federal and state funding so I’m very aware of who uses their money wisely.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

I am aghast that some people think it is their right to judge what I determine to be a good charity. If I have $100 and I want to donate it to my church for new robes for the choir then I will do so and be happy about it. That $100 robe could make the finest singer in choir able to attend the next concert the choir was to give to the public. And, when this fine singer appeared with the choir and sang it moved many in the crowd to donate far more than what the $100 robe cost. This is not a made up moral story. This kind of stuff happens.

scamp's avatar

I agree with Sueanne_Tremendous. I sang in a church choir in a small country church from ‘92 to ‘96, and we couldn’t afford robes for a very long time. In ‘94, we had finally saved up enough to buy robes for the choir, and it was wonderful! It lifted the spirits of the congregation as well as the choir.

susanc's avatar

This is the argument that unfairly pits ethics against aesthetics (or, okay, survival against beauty) – but it’s a false dichotomy.
The choir robe was important to some people. Malaria treatment is also
important, duh. Both, not either/or.
I’ve always liked Judi’s Bible story – she’s right, it’s a caution about being too quick to judge what’s charitable, what defines an act of love and care.

I’m inspired by the purple and gold.
I think I’ll go downtown and give away a few twenties to homeless people now.
Because of the purple and gold.

Response moderated

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther