It’s that time of the year when appeals to our better nature arrive in greater numbers. There are close to a million public charities in the United States, alone. Add to that at least half-a-million civil leagues and 100,000 private charities. Religion receives about 35% split between maintaining their organizations and charities. Education non-profits get around 14%, human service charities collect around 9%, with the rest going to health and other miscellaneous charities.
When considering which charitable organizations deserve our generosity, most of us want most of our contributions to go to actually helping victims and downtrodden and less to go towards management and overhead. We want our gifts of kindness to benefit those who truly need help the most.
The process of choosing which charities to help and which charities to reject can be a heartrending process. There are starving children to think about, refugees fleeing from war zones and famine, horrendous diseases in need of cures, poverty, addiction, crime victims, and much more. Sorting all of these out can take a lot of personal energy. The hardest part is relegating some appeals to the trash bin.
We are all part of the big picture. We have certain rights and responsibilities in life. Since nobody is actually totally independent from the rest of the world, our lives are bound together in an interdependent way. We are as good as the way we treat the least among us. To live a genuinely happy life is to see beyond thinking that says, “What’s in it for me.”
On the other hand, being seen as a do-gooder is counterproductive. People are naturally put off by holier than thou types and people who brag about being generous. That type of charity work is more about ego gratification than actual aid to the needy. Do people participate in walkathons and fun-runs to raise badly needed funds for charity or do they participate in order to obtain a tee-shirt that says they’re charitable?
One aspect of charity is that it receives leftovers. In most instances, charity occupies the lowest rung on the ladder of our priorities. This is the natural result of people needing to prioritize other aspects of our lives. When everything else is taken care of, we might either splurge on a special treat for ourselves or give a dollar or two to a special cause.
I used to be the public service director at the radio station where I worked. This meant that I was a professional sorter outer of charitable and non-profit causes. Each week, we received dozens of requests for free airtime to promote good causes. It was up to me to choose who would get the few available minutes of free advertising available.
Naturally, priority for airtime goes to paying advertisers. Paid commercials enable the station to pay operating costs and salaries. The amount of minutes for advertising each hour are limited. Even if we could fill an entire hour with commercials, at most there are only 60-minutes available each hour. Of course, there is a listener threshold for the number of commercials coming at them. I don’t know anyone who wants to listen to 60-minutes per hour of advertising every hour.
If there are more than five minutes worth of ads in each break, the listeners will tune away. If there are too many commercial breaks in each hour, listeners will also tune away. Additionally, advertisers want their messages to go out to the greatest number of ears. Commercials airing at morning and evening commutes will be heard by more people than commercials airing overnight.
Its more rare for free ads–public service announcements–to play at drive time slots than overnight slots. This is the logical and most business-savvy way broadcasters prioritize commercials. On top of that, broadcasters are able to charge more money for prime time than overnight.
If you listen to late night radio, you’re aware that low-budget mass advertising and public service announcements make up the commercial breaks. It is this leftover time where the free ads mostly run. This leftover time must be shared by the dozens of already narrowed down, prioritized charities.
Talk oriented broadcasting has similar concerns. Fortunately, charities and non-profits find exposure on prime time shows. Yet, there is much sorting through in order to interview spokespersons from the most “worthy” non-profits. The lion’s share of “lesser priority” charities get shuffled to the black hole of Sunday mornings and weekend overnights.
Public Service broadcasting isn’t only about rationing leftover, unprofitable time slots. A more rewarding part is selecting the non-profits that the station, itself, will sponsor. This puts the select non-profit front and center during prime-time. Interviews and promotion of the sponsored charity are placed high on the priority ladder of morning and afternoon drive-time shows.
The sorting out of good causes by the carrot and stick approach muddies the field of professional charity a great deal. The vast majority of worthy causes will never get prime-time exposure nor even obtain free, leftover time on overnight programs. They are left to scramble for funding by using mass mailing (junk mail) and mentions on the Internet.
This brings me to the reason why I picked charity as today’s topic. Today is “Giving Tuesday”. Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday where the idea is to get you to buy lots of stuff, “Giving Tuesday” is to encourage you to take a break from consumption and seriously choose the charities you will help. “Giving Tuesday” is when we write the cheques and send them to our worthy causes.
I hope you have a meaningful “Giving Tuesday”.