I know, ‘tis the season to be of good cheer. And if you follow this column, you’ll know I’m always on the lookout for ways that those who can might help those less fortunate. I’m aware that a lot of citizens in Santa Monica are doing great things this season for others in need. So, with all that said… and at the risk of sounding Grinch-y…
Is this is a good time to talk about people ringing your telephone looking for money for charities, suspecting you’ll be more likely to yield because it’s Christmas? It’s possible we’re hit on harder in Santa Monica because of the quite reasonable assumption that there are resources here that aren’t the same in all other areas. I’d be stunned to learn that those deploying phone solicitation for fundraising are unaware of the areas they are dialing. And the emerging economic crisis amplifies the need.
But there’s something retro, and I suspect inefficient, about non-profit organizations using telephone solicitation. Each time I apologize to yet another organization seeking a donation, I can’t help but feel that there has to be a better and more productive system; one that doesn’t have people entering your home and derailing your evening or even your train of thought by way of ringing your phone. If (for the sake of this discussion) we considered it a form of panhandling, you’d certainly act to keep panhandling on the street and not have people approach you inside your own home, and what is the act of ringing your phone at any given time if not an “approach”?
Let me cool down and go sideways for a moment here: Is soliciting funds for charity any different than people calling you about who to vote for? Certainly many of us felt it mattered to get out there and ring telephones for Obama just weeks ago. And further, that it was not only a right but a duty to make those phone calls and get the change we needed. Can we interrupt your dinner? Yes, we can!
Okay, so whether it’s fair or not we’re solid on phone calls about voting, but maybe not so certain that every non-profit organization must keep redialing us with their computer, hammering away until we yield and engage them. Caller ID was supposed to help us with this, but now there are various ways of masking a charity phone call ID. In the weeks between Thanksgiving and now, one becomes more adept at identifying those kinds of calls. But they’re still causing the phone to ring in your home. They are, electronically, a neighbor coming over to borrow something as often as five or six times in one evening.
Understand that I’m not looking to deny any organization a shot at me. I’m simply looking for something better than repetitive phone solicitation and (while we’re on it) mailing me four pounds of (often) unappetizing holiday labels and calendars that I know must cost them a fortune and for the most part end up – Oh, I can’t say it. There’s something so sad about dumping cheery reindeer stickers in the garbage just because there’s too much fake gold on them. Please… is there another, better way?
My significant other is very involved with the Upward Bound House here in Santa Monica, an organization that helps to mitigate the affordable housing problem on the Westside by providing transitional housing for homeless families with children and low-income seniors. Instead of signing a check for them as a holiday gesture, she had a yard sale last weekend whereby she lightened our possession load and raised an impressive amount of cash for the cause. Friends and neighbors came by, creating a kind of spontaneous holiday party, and I happen to know for a fact that one dude walked away with an incredible value on some old speakers of mine.
The organization Product RED or (RED), co-founded by Santa Monica’s own Bobby Shriver, has integrated with manufacturers to create products that satisfy and make a donation to fight AIDS globally. Conscious choice consumerism is certainly a great start in looking for new ways to generate funds.
That was sort of how the yard sale worked, although since everything was used you’d have to call it (OLD). Still, there was social interaction, recycling of useable goods… and funds were generated. If you had kids at your house, they could get on board a charity yard sale and learn that sometimes it’s more involving to do something rather than just sign a check. But, alas, that doesn’t stop the phone from ringing. In one regard, it’s right that our peace is disturbed. Because on our planet, somewhere, the phone for help is always ringing. And we don’t pick it up as often as we should.