Sunday, December 4, 2011

Donors demand government action to force charities to stop thanking them so damn much

Governments across North America are considering taking legislative action to stop charities from thanking donors so damn much.

Donors of all stripes have been asking lawmakers in Canada and the US to stop the deluge of thank you cards, thank emails, thank you phone calls and thank you face-to-face meetings. That has led several government agencies in both countries to think about mandatory limits on how much one donor can be thanked, acknowledged, recognized or otherwise shown gratitude.  

“Some donors are being thanked dozens of times, maybe even hundreds. These calls, letters and emails come at all times of the day and night and no matter what the donor does they can’t stop these charities from expressing how grateful they are. That’s totally unacceptable. Only government legislation can put an end to this,” said Curly Dibble, a spokesperson for the US Department of Justice.

Across the border, the Canadian Department of Justice has found similar trends and is considering similar legislative action.

“The Government of Canada is very concerned about the predatory gratitude actions by some charities here and the US and will be moving shortly to introduce legislation to stop donors being thanked too often or in a way that’s embarrassing or in a manner that involves flowery messages from some chair of a board or something,” the Department said in a statement.

The moves come one week after the US-Canada Cross-Border Trade Agency (USCANCBTA) held hearings in Ottawa and Washington on the donor thanking crisis. Donors from both countries testified that charities had repeatedly and unashamedly thanked them time and time again without any remorse.

“I just gave $50.00 to the local animal shelter,” testified Mrs. Annie Swurmfurster of Plano, Texas. “I got an email thank you within a few minutes. A note from the Executive Director followed a few days later in the mail. Then I got a call from the chair of the board. A few days after that three staff members came to my door and told me how wonderful I was. Then, they took out an ad in the local paper praising my generosity.”

“It was a living nightmare,” she said.

“I told them I didn’t want any thanks for my $100.00 donation to help save the environment,” said donor Tony Verhagen of Windsor, Ontario. “But that didn’t stop them from sending me an email from some bleeding heart 16 year old thanking me for preserving the forests for future generations. I told them to bug off in an email back to them. But then the chairman of the charity emailed and thanked me for my comments. These guys have no morals, no shame. They just have to thank everybody.”

Currently US legislation is stalled in Congress. Democrats in the US Congress have vowed to cap the number of thank you’s any one donor can get at three, but Republicans are sticking to their plan for no thank you’s. The debate over legislation has also boiled over to the campaign trail where two Republican presidential hopefuls have introduced so-called “Zero-Zero-Zero” thank you caps that will force charities to accept donations in an arrogant fashion and never express any gratitude. Under one plan, all donors could expect would be a slight three inch nod of a charity worker’s head upon receiving a cash donation. Touring through the mid-west, President Obama said he would bring down his own cap in a few weeks which would effectively replace the words “Thank you” with a nonsense word like “Obamaforprez”. Republicans are calling the President’s plan “Obama Thanks” and are vowing to stop it.

In Canada, similar legislation is also bogged down over whether thank you caps come under federal or provincial jurisdiction. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority Conservative government says it will base its new thank you restriction laws on Harper himself, who almost never says thank you, and if he does, has some MP do it for him.

National charities meantime are calling for a thank you summit in Denver next year called “The Big Hug”.