Charitable Angst

I wouldn’t consider myself a generous person.  My charitability is off-the-charts random.  You have to catch me in just the right mood to have a successful pitch for donations or whatnot.  However, I don’t really consider myself a scrooge, either.  I think I’m overwhelmed with how much needs to be done and given and it seems that anything you give is just never enough and if I opened up to that possibility, I could really do some damage to myself.  So, I’m just really guarded about the whole thing.

But this year, two causes broke through my defenses.  And they’re kind of odd choices.  Well, they’re not odd causes, but they’re odd choices to donate to.  It’s pretty much like the case of a person who actually registered and purchased a license to WinRAR.  The two causes were both online websites:  The Internet Archive and Wikipedia.

Wait, Wikipedia?  The one that shows this begging banner a few times a year and says if everyone donates just a fraction of a penny that the donation drive would have ended 10 years ago?  Yeah, that one.  I use Wikipedia a lot, although that’s not really any sort of metric of who I should be donating to.  They’ve been doing what they do for a very long time and in that time, they haven’t changed in a way that you could perceive as “selling out” or “sucking”.  There’s something to be said for that.  So, I don’t really see my donation as a gift for the future, I see it more as a thanks for everything so far.  I suppose that’s an ass-backwards way of viewing donations, because had they started sucking a while ago, I wouldn’t have donated, but then again, why donate to a site that sucks?  See, this is why I can’t think about charity.

And the other one, The Internet Archive.  This one actually is sort of a gift for its future, because I expect them to be around when I’m ready to offload everything I’ve collected for future internet people to view.  Sometimes I’ll browse their stuff randomly and just be amazed at the obscurity of some of the items.  And other times it’s amazement at what is actually in there.  It’s so much stuff, I can’t imagine anyone could monitor it all.  So anyway, they got a little gift.

But here’s something I’ve thought about for some time, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll act on it this year.  I have heard that social service shelters of all types really like hotel toiletries.  They are the perfect size for people that are just passing through, with less waste, and it’s something that everyone needs.  So if you are at a hotel and can grab an extra bar of soap on your way out, they would appreciate it.  But collecting a few bars of soap over a year isn’t really all that useful, despite “every little bit helps”.  And really, you’re not donating the soap, the hotel is.

You can buy travel-sized soaps and shampoo from plenty of places like Target or Walgreens or CVS, but have you seen the prices?  That’s not bad when you’re on vacation and you need one, but it’s not scalable to the hundreds.  So… why not buy a whole case of mini soaps from a hospitality supply company and donate that?  And mini shampoos, too?  So I looked into that possibility a little bit.

I’m going to stick to a price of about $45 per case of product.  Depending on the size of the product and its quality, the quantity will differ.  But initial searches say you can get 200, 500, or even 1000 bars of soap for $45 or less.  And for the same amount, you can get 144, 160, or 288 little shampoo bottles.  Of course you can spend more and get improved quality, which as some might reason is a better value because you would use less product overall. 

What else?  You can get disposable toothbrushes with toothpaste included: 144 for $60.  Razors?  500 for $70.  Pretty much anything that a shelter could want, you could supply in bulk if you consider things from a hospitality perspective.  If I’m wandering a flea market or an outlet store like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, I see boxes of toiletries for sale and I know the sellers got them for cheap – duh, since they’re selling them for so cheap.  But the problem is those are full-size, retail bottles, which might not be suitable for someone that is only staying at a shelter for a couple of days. 

And now my mind is racing, thinking of all the things that could be donated.  And this is why I can’t think about charity.

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