Supermarket cashiers keep asking me to donate $1 to charity. Should I feel bad for saying no?

Advice on how to make the world better.
April 22 2009 6:56 AM

Checkout Charities

Supermarket cashiers keep asking me to donate $1 to charity. Should I feel bad for saying no?

Do you have a real-life do-gooding dilemma? Please send it to ask.my.goodness@gmail.com and Patty and Sandy will try to answer it.

Dear Patty and Sandy,

I am growing increasingly resentful of the store clerks who ask me if I'd like to donate $1 to cure cancer, help homeless pets, feed the homeless, cure muscular dystrophy, etc., every time I shop. While they are all good causes, I don't donate to anything that I don't have an opportunity to look into myself. Should I just give? Invest the time to ask for more information every time I go to the store? Ask to speak to the manager? Is there a Web site that critiques the charities?

Eva

Sandy:

Advertisement

You're not alone, Eva. These supermarket "asks" have become ubiquitous. This article  features an annoyed shopper who is actually driving out of her way to avoid the pleas at her local Safeway. On the other hand, Safeway says it drummed up more than $40 million in checkout-line donations in 2007. So what do you do when you're asked to cure cancer every time you need a gallon of milk?

Start by looking at where the money is going. Recognize the name? Care about the issue? Respect the organization? Then give your nickel instead of letting it rattle around in the bottom of your purse. Would you rather give to homeless people than homeless pets? Then save your nickels, fill up a jar, and take it to a  Coinstar  machine, where you can choose from several well-known charities, from Feeding America to the World Wildlife Fund.

According to the IRS's  last published data  (from 2005), there are 807,421 active nonprofit charitable organizations. It's no wonder we're being asked to give every time we turn around, and you absolutely shouldn't feel bad for just saying no. As my mom and I told Erica in a recent column, the best way to donate is to take the time to figure out a few good charities, make a giving plan, and stick to it. There are a lot of ways to rank charities: Charity NavigatorGuideStar, and the  Better Business Bureau  are good places to start.

Patty:

I've got an easier answer than Sandy's: Just say, "Thanks, but I've got my own giving plan!" and move on. You should feel great that you have a plan (you do have a plan, right?), and you shouldn't ever feel bad about saying no. I never give to these quick-change fundraisers myself, but I don't resent their presence, either. Most organizations that resort to checkout-line fundraising are trying their best to raise awareness and a bit of money at the same time. If it doesn't work, they'll get the message and try another approach.

Do you have a real-life do-gooding dilemma? Please send it to ask.my.goodness@gmail.com and Patty and Sandy will try to answer it.

In our ongoing effort to do better ourselves, we're donating 25 percent of the proceeds from this column to ONE.org—an organization committed to raising public awareness about the issues of global poverty, hunger, and disease and the efforts to fight such problems in the world's poorest countries.

Patty Stonesifer is the chair of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and a senior adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was president, then CEO for 10 years. She spent the first two decades of her career in the technology business, where her last job was senior vice president at Microsoft.

Sandy Stonesifer works on issues related to adolescent girls' health at a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Learns That Breaking Up a Country Is Hard to Do

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola: It Preys on the Compassionate

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 12:33 PM The Precarious Predicament of Russia’s Neighbors
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 19 2014 12:50 PM This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 12:10 PM Watch the Trailer for Big Eyes, a Tim Burton Movie About People With Normal-Sized Eyes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.