Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thoughtful Giving

St. Jude manipulative ad.Almost one year to the day, I wrote a post about princess sheets – about a compassionate story of how a nurse helped a dying child. This blog entry is about something similar.

I purposefully embedded an ad from St. Jude's. The tag line is "Madelyn is fighting cancer. Please help St. Jude save her life." I find this ad to be extremely manipulative. It is akin to someone saying, write me a check or the child dies. Now I have no problem with a non-profit organization asking for money. In Savannah, we have a children's hospital imbedded in Memorial Medical Center. Sick kids go there. And if they are really sick, they go to Atlanta. Atlanta's tag line, "Children need Children's."

I have heard many actors speak about the good work St. Jude is doing. My guess is that they give them cue cards, tell them what to say. Some of the actors may have even visited St. Jude's. I mean, one could visit St. Jude's and Graceland in the same day. Okay a little bit calloused.

Going back to St. Jude's. I really don't know much about the hospital itself. I have never been a patient there, nor have I known any patients who received care there. They are a research hospital, focusing their efforts on pediatric cancer research. Danny Thomas, I believe, started St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and his daughter Marlo Thomas continues to be its main spokesperson (and major contributor). I remember her for her "Free to Be . . . You and Me", a television special that I would listen to (on a record) when I was growing up. I don't remember the program, but I do remember listening to records instead of television.

I don't have a problem with St. Jude's as a hospital. My problem with them is with their ads. Some of the television ads (and movie theater ads) basically imply that if you don't give money to St. Jude's, some little girl (or boy) will die. And that is really not the case.

The ad shows a child with cancer, and with cancer, time is of the essence. If I give money to St. Jude's, the money does not get deposited to the research organization immediately and then a cure is found. Can you imagine a physician saying, "Well, I am 98% towards the cure to this cancer, but I am just going to kick back until I get that last $50 from Leesa." The implication is that the current child will die without support, and the child is already undergoing treatment – experimental treatment – at St. Jude's.

Government Grants
Like it or not, the Federal Government spends a lot of money on healthcare research. Part of me thinks we should personally supplement this, because of the idea that we would be getting at the root of the problem. Thousands are slashing at the leaves, when one attacks the root. But part of me thinks to myself, let the government handle this, and hope the healthcare research is not on enlarging the urethra on men who want to pee faster.

St. Jude's is a cancer hospital, and for my money, I believe that more needs to be spent for compassion. I give money to our local children's hospital, and I know the money goes to local children. I am with Mother Theresa on giving locally. Or if I wanted to give to Atlanta, for instance, where they have children who receive bone marrow transplants, I know Atlanta's Children Hospital (technically called Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) sees Savannah's children as well. Yeah, I know that giving money to the children's hospital probably does not go into research, but it supports children who are on research protocols.

When I hear drives for local charities, the approach is more normally "Look at all of the good work we have done. Give us money to help us continue these efforts."

When I was growing up, I went around the block to gather money for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Someone from the neighborhood would go down to the local TV station to deliver the money; we never went ourselves. I would watch the telethon for hours, as Jerry Lewis would beg the audience for one more dollar. Now, I gave money to the Muscular Dystrophy Association for a bunch of years, and I don't think the Federal Government was really putting much money into research at the time.

I am not saying that giving to MDA is good or bad. Part of me wants to give to a bunch of organizations. But you know what would be better, and something I have adopted? Concentrated giving makes more economic sense. If you give to one or two organizations, it makes the giving more efficient. If you give to 20 organizations, all twenty spend money on trying to get you to give more. If you give to two, the other eighteen can concentrate their efforts on others, and you will be able to concentrate giving to the two organizations.

Oh, and I give anonymously. I would like to say that I do so because of Bible scripture ("But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.", Mat 6:3). It isn't. Most organizations put out an annual report, and if you give more than a certain amount, your name is put in the report (unless you tell them that you want your donation to be anonymous). Some development people scan annual reports to get leads. If one gives to one organization, you know the person is a giver. So you ask. And, since I am concentrating efforts, I don't want to know. I might change my mind.

And you may have guessed, I am not giving to St. Jude's. Madelyn is a cutie pie and all, but I do give locally.


グラント said...

I generally adopt a Pro-Death stance on all things, so I'm willing to donate money if the celebrities and creators of the ads will be publicly executed. I wonder how much money Jennifer Anniston made doing that.

Most charities piss me off. For every dollar I donate, they flood my mailbox with $2 worth of junk mail asking for more money. These days I only donate anonymously.

Prata said...

As a rule, I do not give to charities. I think I've mentioned that before. I agree though Leesa, the ad is very manipulative. All ads are, they have been that way since coming out of The Depression and WWII.

If you're into history, go have a gander. you'll note that advertisements ramped up during these periods the problem is that they never went on a downward trend, which is why society is full of consumers rather than customers.

SSC said...

I believe what you are saying and I agree to give locally. I was never into giving at all monetarily until one of my family members had cancer. They are fine and they could afford treatment out of their own pocket. However that got me started on my own little campaign to do what I could for those who couldn't afford it or didn't have a family member to be by their side.

I signed up at the local hospital to be someone who would be with a dying person if they had no relatives so they at least were comforted by someone in their last moments.

Sorry for going off on a tangent and or offending anyone with this last statement.

My belief is that their is a cure for cancer. However we would lose so much money if there was such a cure.

Again only my view, as I am very passionate about this subject.

Thank you Leesa for this post and allowing me to write on this post.

Leesa said...

grant: very discerning way of allocating your offerings.

prata: the Church used to do a pretty good job of helping others. Now-a-days, though, it seems that a lot of the funds coming in is to ensure that the members of the congregation are comfortable.

ssc: you are so welcome. A lot of people believe as you do - that there is a cure to cancer but it is being surpressed for monitary gain. I don't buy it, but lots of people do.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I stumbled across your blog accidentally, but wanted to post and mention Children's Miracle Network. CMN is an awesome organization because you give to a global organization that supports local pediatric efforts. You may have seen their little hot air balloon icons that you can buy at your grocery store, etc. But, depending where you donate to CMN, that's where the money stays. If you donate to CMN in Savannah, the money will go to Memorial. If you donate in Atlanta, it will go to Children's.

I personally think that's an ideal way to give. This Christmas, I made a purchase at Pottery Barn, and they were donating to St. Jude. While St. Jude's is an awesome place, as you mentioned, I'd much rather know that my money is helping the children of my community.