Friday, September 02, 2005

No Sarcasm and No Conspiracies…Just Some Help Where It’s Needed


The first time I went to a fundraiser for the United Jewish Appeal, my WASP sensibilities were startled by the blunt, straightforward way the members made their pledges.

Instead of writing a figure down on a pledge-card in the quiet of their den, men stood right up at their dinner table in a ballroom filled with their peers and said, “I’m so-and-so and I’m pledging [insert large dollar figure here].”

The bigger the large-dollar-figure pledged, the bigger the applause from the crowd—which, in and of itself triggered ever-larger large-dollar-figures for the UJA coffers. I was both shocked and awed—it was the most effective way of raising money I’d ever seen, and I’d been involved in fundraising for my own church for years.

I looked at bringing that style to the fund-raising efforts of my church, which does things in the normal WASPY privacy-of-your-own-home way, but it never flew.

So I’m going to try it here.

Despite accusations by Business Week that this blog is “sarcastic” and “rambling,” and accusations by at least one apparently hallucination-prone CEO that this blog is much worse, today we have no sarcasm and no conspiracies to offer—just an effort to accomplish something more useful than Hamlet’s “Words, words, words.”

Last night, while looking up a song at Apple’s iTunes Music Store, the site offered the ability to donate to the Red Cross relief efforts on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

I gave $200 and I admit I gave it feeling guilty that I had not already done something. Then I read up on the relief efforts in general and the Red Cross in particular, as well as its efficiency rating at
http://www.charitynavigator.org.

My own experience with certain charities and non-profits that my church has helped fund over the years is that some do spectacular good with very little money, and some do very little good with spectacular amounts of money. (Jim Rogers’ two “Investment Biker” books covering his round-the-world travels contain hair-raising insights on “relief effort” scams that make church groups here in America feel good yet do nothing for the third-world refugees they intend to aid.)

But the American Red Cross does good work—and millions of Americans urgently need that help right now.

So, for today at least, you’ll read no sarcasm here, no rambling, and nothing about the housing market or the Energy Crisis of 2005.

If you have time to read this blog, then you have time to go the Red Cross web site at http://www.redcross.org/ and click on the “Donate Now” button. It took me maybe two minutes to make another, more substantial, donation just before starting this piece.

An hour ago, that site had generated $27,684,625 through 191,682 individual donors. Moments ago the figures were $28,079,870 and 194,198, which work out to an average of $157 for each of the 2,516 donations that were made in the 45 minutes it took me to write this.

Let’s see if the good readers of this blog can help raise that average donation, right here and now.


And, like the stand-up guys at a UJA fund-raiser, let us know when you’ve done it.


Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

45 comments:

tahoe kid said...

$500.

DaleW said...

Didn't mean to take the bid down here, but $200.

DaleW said...

I like the new anti-spam measures, BTW.

Jeff Matthews said...

"dalew": the average I cited from the Red Cross site was $157...as long as we lift that average there's no apologies necessary.

dthorn said...

$250
This breaks my heart it doesnt even look like America - I am ashamed for our country

Hewitt Heiserman said...

In early August I saw a flyer in my local convenience store about a care package drive to support our troops was coming to town.

Wanting to help and also wanting to teach my 6-year-old that there is a world beyond his neighborhood, we went to Wal-Mart to buy, oh, $40 of razors and shaving cream.

Which is what we did. But we had so much fun, we also bought trail mix, chewing gum, Slim Jims, ice tea mix, microwave popcorn, dental floss, strawberry Twizzlers, lollipops, Poptarts, mixed nuts, toothpaste, body lotion, toothbrushes, deodorant, canned applesauce, Jolly Ranchers, batteries, sunscreen, crackers, baby wipes, sunflower seeds, and Ramen noodles. We would have bought more stuff except that our cart was overflowing.

Total bill: $287.40.

Was the best thing I did this summer.

You can read more about this care program at www.anysoldier.com

Mannheim said...

$200. Never enough, but a start. Wonderful idea Jeff!

SiamTwin said...

does anyone find it a little eerie that N.O. is looking alot like Iraq right now?

$200

esbarr said...

Thank you for the information. And, $1,000

stealthelephant said...

I'll write another check to RC. $750 in total.

Vince Fulco said...

Dear Jeff-

Thanks for today's altruistic focus. Donating $200.

All the best,

Vince Fulco, CFA

Its_strange said...

Its Sept. 2nd. You guys running alittle late ? I will revisit the Red Cross

My girl friend and I have been at the receiving of people's help ....Good idea Jeff

Its_strange said...

receiving end, sorrry.

mamis said...

Appreciate the altruistic spirit, but keep something else in mind:

Most people have a fixed charity budget. Money donated to Katrina victims is money that will NOT be donated to medical, education, etc. Wait three months and you'll see news stories about what a rough time charities are having raising money. And with gas prices continuing high, you're going to get a lot of people at the holidays saying, "but I already donated this year."

My point being, don't forget about other charities.

Jeff Matthews said...

"mamis": it may be true that most people have a "fixed" budget for charity.

It is also true that many people are laying out money for cars, houses, torn blue jeans and Apple iPods like there is no tomorrow.

An alternative to your negative case is for consumers to reallocate their total budget by expanding the "fixed" charity budget and shrinking non-fixed consumption budget, to accomodate both today's and tomorrow's needs.

Regardless, I am thrilled that readers have responded, and hope we'll see some more of that re-allocation right here. Thanks.

Dean said...

$200
Now...about the good Dr. Byrne's 30k share purchase...no, no, just my idea of a bad joke. I wondered, however, how the "more substantial donation" falls under the UJA rules referred to in your post? Yep, spill it Jeff! Peace.

Gray said...

Several thanks to you Jeff. One for your call for donations and another for your poking fun at our "in the dark" type of contributing. We decided and donated tuesday nigh, but I am feeling a little sensitive about the paltry $100 so I will double that this weekend. I think we should be more open about giving. Being closed mouthed about it hides those who never give. I also partly disagree with Mamis. We always give something, year in and year out. When the need arises for specific tragedies like this, we give more.
Just for context, I am currently looking for work and our income this year will probably be 25% of normal
peace
Gray

Todd Kenyon said...

Thanks - I had already donated to the Red Cross this am but thanks for giving folks another easy way to donate.

FYI, a small software company located in Corpus Christi, TX, CoffeeCup Software (I have used their web design products but am not affiliated) is offering to personally deliver via truck to Houston and San Antonio any "comfort" goods donated to their office. You can have items sent there directly via Amazon, Walmart, etc. I have heard via Fox News that refugees are receiving personal care kits at the Astrodome, but they need things like underware, clothing, etc - especially plus-sized. I took the opportunity to send $100 worth of toys (building blocks, games etc). If you would like to donate items via this direct route, please see this link .

Jeff Matthews said...

"Dean": in the spirit of honest and open dialogue this blog demands and in which you asked, I will reveal my "more substantial" contribution when it is met or exceeded on this site. In the meantime, I think "Gray" has set the highest bar of all--and his example is bigger than any can-you-top-this number.

Thanks to all.

Johnny said...

Hey Jeff, $250, Nice job...

you da man

nukeydog said...

Gave my $200, which felt great, then sent an email, even borrowed some of your sage words, encouraging 100+ more folks to do the same. that felt even better. i think its called 'viral' philanthropy. peace and prayers,

nukeydog

Phoenix Speaks said...

$100 (it doesn't help the averages but it's significant for my budget).
1st time commenter but daily Jeff Matthews Blog reader (thanks Jeff for the insight).
If each of us begins an email chain to our friends/cohorts which includes a short message, the link to the donation site, and our name and amount of our pledges, the result could be immensely positive towards RC's fundraising efforts. That's what i'm doing...thanks for the idea Jeff.

mamis said...

I don't want to hijack your blog, and I don't want to criticize good people with generous intentions. I promise to drop the subject after this post.

But Jeff, you work at a hedge fund. Your job is to game human nature, to zig when others zag. When the world is buying dot coms, you know it's time to sell. When the world is buying China, you know it's time to sell China. And when the world is donating to Katrina victims, you know other charities will be ignored. The markets and disaster relief are the same: they're reflections of human nature, the good and the bad, the altruistic and the herd-following.

Again, I'm not critical of Katrina donations; I'm just saying other charities will -- WILL, not might -- get short shrift. And I think that's a shame, because the marginal utility of $100 is much greater in Niger (for example) than in New Orleans. Money will not be the limiting factor in Katrina relief.

Can we at least agree that this holiday season, when the media is doing stories about charity donations drying up, you'll do a post about it?

Its_strange said...

Why do we feel compelled to compare ? ....Well anyway....A few dollars worth of food and water can AND will save lives ...

Sam S. Park said...

Jeff,

You ROCK!!! I too will get my church to raise more funds for donation.

Its_strange said...

I just got back from the Jersey shore this morning . Saw Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes ( real music with real people playing real instruments ) three times. Decided to post on thier website that its time to step up and donate to the Red Cross. I hope it helps Jeff

Aaron Koral said...

Hi Jeff - I hate bringing the donation average down, but I gave $10 yesterday to the ARC. I'll donate another $10 next week - what you made me (and others, I think) realize is, it's not the amount but the thought of giving itself that counts/matters most. Keep up the great work...

fiat lux said...

I'm in grad school and the spouse is unemployed. We gave $50. Wish it could be more.

Dean said...

Touche! And I couldn't agree more with your observation about Gray. Unless, of course, his annual household income is typically seven or eight figures! Peace.

Tim Knows How to Make Stuff Up said...

$100 - was thinking about doing it the last couple of days and was too busy - so, you inspired me. Here's the funny part, if you will - it took me about two minutes to donate - it then took me 25 minutes to log in for the first to this blog so I could comment!

Anyway, great work on the blog, Jeff. Keep it up.
regards,
Tim

ClaudeG said...

$500 to noahswish.org, budget isn't fixed and might be tied to some percentage of the future gains from the ryder tempest fund over coming years...

red cross contribution pending employer match update.

Thanks Jeff! Read you every morning.

bpl1000 said...

$200

Gray: Considering your circumstance, your ability to give is very compelling. Your post (and others) is a reminder now is a time to reflect on the things we have, and can give, rather than the things we want.

Jeff, this forum is a great way generate donations for the down and out from the hurricane. As far as Businessweek is concerned- keep on rambling!! This is a blog isn't it??!! What were they expecting?? lol..

Michael Parekh said...

I'm in...$250.

michael parekh
www.mparekh.com

Jeff Matthews said...

Great--Michael just put us over $5,000 for the day. Thank you all.

I plan to keep this up over the weekend and hope more can participate in any way they choose.

Have a good, safe Labor Day weekend and keep in mind those who do not have that possibility.

Hewitt Heiserman said...

Fortune's Bethany McLean writes in tonight's (Friday) edition of StreetLife:

"KATRINA. Here's one scenario depicting a small slice of the devastation. One guy is trying to send friends in Columbia, Mississippi—about 100 miles north of the Gulf shore—a water purification system so that people sheltered in the local church have potable water to drink. This is what he writes:

"Well, the best laid plans. It's much worse that everyone thinks, as the common infrastructure for hundreds of miles has been affected. I tried to FedEx a water purification system to Columbia today for delivery tomorrow. Bad idea. To get FedEx packages to Columbia, they have to go through Hattiesburg. According to FedEx, the Hattiesburg office no longer exists. Physically gone. Same with the Columbia FedEx office. They said it would have to be torn down….OK, plan B: Could they deliver it via Jackson? I'll pay for someone to drive it down. The Jackson FedEx office has no gasoline to deliver packages and is essentially closed. Only drop-offs and pickups from the Richland location. OK, plan C. I'll Fly there, rent a car and drive it down. Well, after speaking to 4 rental car agencies, there are no rental cars available at the Jackson airport. The FedEx supervisor, Lissa, said that others were trying to help by sending stuff FedEx but that the system had broken down. She said that she personally rerouted packages bound for New Orleans to Texas. One truck driver with an 18 wheeler full of water was turned back by the National Guard. They had to wait at the Texas border for a National Guard escort. If I come up with a plan "D", I'll let you know. It sounds like the only option is to rent a truck far away with enough gas capacity to make the trip, or carry a bunch of spare cans."

Heiserman family in for $250.

Good work, Jeff.

Its_strange said...

My sisters 6 kids can expect alittle less the Xmas. I'm donating alittle more.

Its_strange said...

The Red Cross link provided by Jeff is not working right . It claims i put the wrong credit card number in. I tried 3 times . I used ddifferent cards. Its not me. I will try later tonight

Its_strange said...

Made the donation and also pointed a few things out to my sister's kids

tahoe kid said...

My kids emptied the change from their piggy banks and donated a tad over $30 to the Red Cross via the Coinstar machine at the grocery store. Baby steps.

trying to be not stupid said...

Giving to a couple of different places - but i added the Red Cross at $75 - thanks for the reminder Jeff.

Johnny said...

Company just matched my $250.00...

AllenCap said...

$100

My 9 year old cousin raised $50 something dollars in less than an hour standing on the side of the road selling lemonade with all proceeds going to the hurrican victims. His mom said people were coming by and giving $5 and not even getting anything to drink and just saying thank you for giving them the opportunity to donate at the spur of the moment.

If anyone knows any kids that would like to make a contribution, maybe they could suggest something similar? I think it's a good way for the kids to feel they are part of the solution to such a tragic problem.

tr8der said...

500$ to the ARC and a co. match.

SellToWhom said...

Jeff, a wonderful idea. One tidbit, more observant Jews believe that charity should be anonymous, and in that light...

Jeff Matthews said...

All of you--thanks. Not that anyone here has done anything they wouldn't have done anyway, but this is nice to see...from children emptying piggybanks to companies matching gifts.

As for the note from "selltowhom" that more observant Jews believe charity should be anonymous, well, there's a loyal reader who joined "selltowhom" by giving quite generously in that same spirit.

As the waters recede, it looks very much like the needs will be rising.