Holiday Scams and Fundraisers

I know many of our hearts are huge during the holidays, and end of the year donations not only feel good, but are tax deductible.   Well, over the years, I’ve been employed by some pretty dirty businesses that specialize in basically ripping people off under the guise of good will, and I’d like to warn you about those scams.  Hopefully, in the wake of my tirade, you’ll think twice about forking over money to anyone who asks for it, no matter how harmless they seem, or how good the cause they claim to represent actually is.

First, I want to address the issue of telemarketers.  Now, I know that at least some of you still own a phone, but I’ll admit, we don’t even have one anymore.  Just cell phones these days.  But, this scam, it seems to me, will inevitably bleed into our emails and mobile phones as well, not to mention the already infiltrated Postal Service.

Most Associations do not have the resources, time or volunteers to raise their own funds.  This includes benevolent associations like the local Police, Fireman and Rescue Squads.  It also may include state agencies that benefit any of the aforementioned groups, or agencies that support the homeless, poor, or orphaned.

The police are in the business of protecting and serving the public.  The fireman of your state are in the business of protecting businesses and homes from complete destruction, not to mention, along with EMT’s, saving lives.  They are not in the business of fund raising.

Now, from time to time, you will see that the local associations will hold a “beef ‘n’ beer” or even a coin toss on the local roads.  This, my friends, are the only times that you are truly giving to the local organizations.  If you want to help them out in ways other than financially, bake some cookies on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve and drop them off at the local fire station of Rescue Squad.  Volunteer your time for some of their local efforts.  But, whatever you do, don’t get caught up in this scam.

Here’s how things really go down.  For profit companies approach these organizations.  They are telemarketers, or mail marketing, or even nowadays, email marketing companies.  They offer these benevolent organizations offers that are very hard to refuse.  They say, “We will give you $100,000 in donations, provided that you sign a contract that allows us to raise money for your organization for 12 months.”  There are no strings attached to this offer.  And, volunteers who already give their time fighting fires don’t have to take weekends away from time with their families to stand in the middle of the road like panhandlers begging for money.

Here’s the catch, if you haven’t already figured it out.  For 3 months, every person on the staff follows a well manicured, very cunning script to call people in that jurisdiction to raise money for the “local heroes.”  They raise said $100,000 and really do donate it to the cause.  But, since they are under/have a contract, they are “allowed” to raise money for that organization for a full year.  They KEEP the profits.  Where do they go??  They pay the people who call you and harass you to donate to the “local cause” under the pretense that you’ll get special treatment for having a sticker on your back windshield if pulled over, or a special sticker on your front door when the firefighters arrive.

So, maybe it takes them 6 months, or 9 months to raise the 100k they promised.  They still get three months of pure profit to prey upon you and your wallet.  They call it Black Friday, in the retail world, because most retail businesses are said to not actually turn a profit, fiscal year wise, until after that day.  Until then, they are paying overhead for space, personnel, and product.  Well, there is not product in telemarketing, only 100% bullshit!  Sure, they do technically contribute to a good cause, but they do so under the veil of benevolence, when in reality, they do so as a pretense to put money in their own pockets.

I want people to realize that I’m not a conspiracy theorist on this subject.  I worked this job, and, if I risk being humble, I was damn good at it, because I can manipulate people into believing that not donating is tantamount to not supporting.  It’s an easy argument to make, for me.  But I didn’t feel good about it, once I figured out the scam I was perpetuating, and I quit after two weeks.

If you want to help out the local volunteers, then volunteer.  Or call them, and ask what you can do for them.  Tell them that you would rather help them directly than risk having a third party skim from your donation.

I’m not nearly done with the subject of this blog, but I’ve got to go play a show now, so part 2 will come soon.

–~r

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