Forcing Your Good Ideas On Others Despite Good Intentions

I got a little annoyed about a somewhat uncomfortable situation that came about at work.

Here in America, Tuesday was Veteran’s Day.  I have family members and friends who have served in the military, and I respect the courage of every person who has ever put forward their time and bravery for our country.

Our CIO put out a message to the entire IT staff thanking those on staff who have served, as well as providing a general thank you to all military members.  Someone replied personally to her asking if she would support an idea where people could contribute money that would then be used to support a family or two of veteran’s who needed assistance in terms of clothing, food, etc.

The CIO supported it and even offered to contribute a little extra herself, as well as sending out the idea to the entire staff.

The next day, the person who had the idea came around and started asking everybody for their contribution.  Not asking if they were going to contribute, but “You haven’t paid your $5 yet, so do you have it?”

I was a little taken aback and a quite a bit uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing:  I think it’s a great idea.  It’s certainly worthwhile.  But, there are many ideas and causes that are great ideas and worthwhile, but I can’t support every one of them.  My wife and I set aside money throughout the year for giving, and we work together to identify organizations and causes which we’d like to give, and budget accordingly.

While the amount ($5) was not a budget breaker, I thought that trying to make it forced giving was very off-putting and completely went against the positive spirit by which it had been initially suggested.

The method by which she collected it seemed designed to pretty much force everybody to give.  After all, if you say ‘no’ after having it presented that way, you come across as being the person that doesn’t support or honor veteran’s who are in need.

Which is not the case at all!

I just think that this should have been handled with a little more tact and understanding.  For the record, I did talk to some other people who found it equally off-putting, and as it turns out, the person who came up with the idea was asked to present her collection in such a way that it would be optional.

Readers, what do you think about this?  Should my co-worker have approached this differently or should I have just thrown in the $5 since she meant well?

Is Flipping A Charity Auction Item Going Too Far?

Our son’s preschool has run a charity auction for a number of years, I believe this was the 12th year.  Being that this is his first year, and our first year involved with the school, we were excited to see what it was all about.

The goal was to raise $5,000 toward the school.  This helps keep the costs relatively low, as well as the fact that it’s a co-op, so they have less staff being that the parents participate.

The auction consisted of two different elements, one was buying tickets, and then putting them in buckets corresponding to certain prize draws.  Some of the items included:

  • A package of Disney DVDs, games, figurines, and other assorted goods
  • A basket of wine, liquor, and other assorted ‘adult’ goodies
  • Gift cards to Target, Kroger, or other big stores
  • Gift cards to local restaurants
  • A box of Twinkies

So, you can see that the prizes were far ranging.  All were in great fun.

The second item was a silent auction.  Here, about 75 items, all donated by local businesses or friends of the school, were available where you could write your name next to a line on a sheet of paper.  The person who got the highest bid won.  In many cases, the ‘value’ of the item was listed, as it would be the value of the item if it were sold at regular price.

Many items sold at or near their value.  Some sold way below.  We actually got a four-pack of tickets to a Detroit Pistons game, and two activity centers for children for $25, where this probably would have cost over $100.

Again, the items here were all over the map in terms of pricing.  The two highest ‘valued’ items were the ones that caught my eye.

  1. A bundle consisting of a brand new Wii U, a controller, a game, and some other accessories
  2. A four pack of park hopper tickets to Disney World.

Both had assigned values right around $500.  And both caught my eye, not because I wanted them, but because I thought that they could be valuable.

I even whipped out my smartphone to look and see what these types of items were selling for on eBay.  The Wii U pack was selling for around $400 on eBay.  It ended up selling for $410, so it was around the correct value.

The Disney tickets were selling for around $100 per ticket.  The ‘retail value’ was $124 per ticket, so anything less than $400 was a potential opportunity.

I mentioned it to my wife, and she was aghast.  She didn’t think that it was right to make money off of a charity auction.  I pointed out that the school didn’t pay for the items, and that if I bid for them, they would actually get more money, since I would be bidding higher than the person who had won them.

Really, would the school care what the use of the tickets was or were they interested in the proceeds of those tickets?  I guess there might be some element of both.

My wife ended up looking at the name on the list, and noting that the person with the highest bid (who ended up winning) was actually planning on using them for their family.  She prohibited me from writing my name, and kept a watchful eye.

Since the names of the winners (but not the final bid) were announced, I realized later that this could have reflected poorly on us.  If other members saw that we had purchased them, but then found out we never used them, they could have figured out that we flipped the tickets.  Since my wife didn’t think much of the practice, it’s certainly possible that others might not have as well.

In the end, it was an idea that I merely considered, but when my wife said no, I didn’t fight back at all.  Given the fact that it was for our son’s preschool and that it could have reflected poorly on our family, I’m glad I didn’t.

However, it brings to mind if this is an opportunity elsewhere.  After all, this was an event that was technically open to the public.  What if Joe Blow off the street had come in and done exactly what I had considered.  Joe would have had no affiliation to the school and therefore would never have been judged by other members.  Would he have been doing anything wrong if he had come in, outbid those who had placed bids, and gotten the tickets?  Technically, no, not at all.

So, maybe those charity auctions you see, maybe there’s an opportunity or two there.  Or does it still make it unscrupulous even if you aren’t affiliated with the actual organization throwing the charity?

Just curious what your thoughts were.  Is this crossing the line into being a vulture or completely within bounds?

And for the record, the package of tickets was listed at $270 moments before the auction closed, so they definitely went for below market price.

5 Financial Items To Do With The 5 Weeks Left In The Year

Today is Cyber Monday and by now, everybody is in full holiday mode.  I’m sure lots of people gave up some sleep for Black Friday shopping, and I know internet traffic spikes (and work productivity goes down) as people will be online today trying to hunt down deals.

While this is all good, one thing to keep in mind is that there are just 5 weeks left in the year.

Thus, I thought it would be prudent to discuss 5 things to do with those 5 remaining weeks:

  1. Begin planning your 2013 budget – Chances are your paycheck is going to look quite a bit different next year.  Surely your health care premiums will change, deductions are likely to change, and other variables will come into play.  Prepare for the adjustments that will take place, and take the time now to make any changes in your withholding rates.
  2. Identify a new category to save for and plan on how to save for it – Here’s an easy one: Christmas.  If your 2012 shopping will be funded by credit cards or by drawing down savings or some other method, come up with a plan now on how to fund next years gifts.  It may sound crazy to think about this a full 57 weeks before next Christmas actually hits, but think about it this way: If you start saving $10 per week today, you’ll have $570 stashed away toward next years gift buying.  If you already have this category taken care of, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and come up with something else: A vacation fund, a birthday gift fund, and if you really can’t come up with one, a ‘Send money to Money Beagle’ fund is right for any occasion! 🙂
  3. Look at mortgage re-financing – Rates are low and if you haven’t re-financed in awhile, you might just be able to get a great rate and some low costs. Lenders will be closing their books on the year, and they will be looking to pad their 2012 numbers by closing as many loans as they can.  Take advantage of the year end and use this as bargaining leverage to get rates lowered or fees waived, something that could pay off for you for years to come.  Make sure you do your homework and pick out the best loan for your overall financial goals, even if that means your payment could actually increase.
  4. Plan any remaining giving – If you have any funds set aside to donate, start planning what you want to do, and actually sending it out.  Many people wait until the last week of the year, but the fact is many people could use that money now, especially with the holiday season kicking in, so if you are planning on giving money anyways, go for it.  At the very least, have a plan in place so that you can make sure you’re not scrambling on New Year’s Eve to get your donations made.
  5. Set 2013 net worth goals – Our net worth statement looks a lot like a balance sheet: Things Worth Money (Assets), Places We Owe Money (Liabilities), and the difference between the two (Equity).  For each of the categories, I project out what I’d like our goals to be.  For example, I’ll look at our retirement balance, forecast what we are saving as well as growth that I hope for, which leads to a number to shoot for in 2013.  Repeat for the other categories, and you’ll end up with some target goals.  This gives a measuring stick throughout the year, as well as something to look back next year to see how you did and how you can improve moving forward.

These are just a few things that you can do, but if you can take care of even one, it’ll make for a better and hopefully more prosperous 2013!

I’d love to hear some of your ideas on things you can do with the last five weeks of the year to make for a better 2013.  What things have you done already?  Anything on my list spark an interest?

The Power Of The Free Calendar

I have donated to my undergrad college every year since receiving my diploma in 1996.  I got a great education there, had a great time, made a lot of great friends, and in many ways, became the person I am today.  I happily give a small amount every year.

One of the things that I had grown to look forward was receiving a calendar, which was always sent out to those who had donated in the prior year.  The twelve month calendar was great for hanging at work, and featured pictures of the college, sometimes from the ‘old days’ and sometimes from how things are today.

I was a little bit disappointed when I did not receive a calendar for 2011.  Around December, when the calendar typically arrives, I got an envelope that I thought was the annual calendar.  I opened it up, ready to take it into work for the coming year, but found instead a donor appreciation report.  It was essentially a big, glossy report listing everybody who donated money.


I did the typical action that probably everybody goes through, which is first look for my name, then look through my graduating class to see who donated and who didn’t.

Then, it went into the recycling.

I still thought a calendar might be on the way, but as it turns out, they decided to suspend the calendar.  The reasons being that it took a lot of effort and cost a lot, and they thought maybe they could get by without it.


Turns out a lot of people complained, so much that when I inquired, the first sentence in the response was assuring me that the calendar would be resumed in 2012.  Apparently they had decided to do the donor report in lieu of the calendar this year.

Feedback was, according to the person that responded, overwhelmingly negative.

I guess they probably got a lot of feedback that without the calendar, many alumni would cancel their donations.  I never would do that, and I actually made it clear when I inquired that I wasn’t threatening to stop donations nor were my donations tied to the expectation of receiving a calendar.  The only expectation that had been set, really, was the fourteen calendars I’ve received year after year.

I pointed out that, while the donor report was nice, it only got one or two looks per year before getting discarded, whereas the calendar got looked at hundreds of times a year.  That’s hundreds of times to think about the college which could then play into whether someone chose to donate to them at some point.

I think they realized this and realized their mistake.  The calendar was seen by many as a token of goodwill, as a token of appreciation, and as a comfortable year after year reminder that they could look forward to.  I really hope that none of my fellow alums stop donating because they didn’t get their calendar this year, but I am also very glad to hear that the college is going to re-institute their practice of sending out the calendar (and keeping the memories alive for those of us who look forward to seeing little reminders on our walls).

2010 Charitable Contributions Wrap-Up

We don’t donate a ton but we give money to worthy causes when we can, as well as some regular donations.   Here’s a run down of what we did in 2010.  I don’t name specific charities or organizations only because I think that each person should do their research and give to those groups which they feel are best suited for their dollars.

This year a majority of our donations went to weekly giving at our church.  We set it up so that the giving is automatic, which (in theory) encourages us to go to church more often.  We have been somewhat lax in this regard.

I also gave a small amount to a church that I no longer attend, but that was a big part of my life growing up.  It was my grandparent’s church.  She passed away in 2009 and hadn’t been able to attend regularly for a few years due to declining health, but that church was a cornerstone of her (and my grandfather before he died as well) life.

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, we gave some money to the relief organization we felt was best suited to deliver aid to those in need.

Food Bank
We provided donations to food banks, timing it so that our contributions were matched by local retailers and banks.  Hopefully this provided meals around the holidays.

Both my wife and I donated money to the endowment funds for our undergraduate school.

Local Museum & Zoo
We purchased a zoo membership, which is technically a pass for admission, but is also (partially) tax deductible, so I thought it worth listing.

We also gave a small amount to a museum in our city, which we have enjoyed on multiple occasions and plan on using even more once our children are old enough to start learning about ‘old times’ and such.

That’s about it.  As always, we would have loved to have given more, but we are happy with the number of organizations, groups, and charities we supported throughout the year.  Our hope is that it made a difference somewhere in someone’s life!

Planning Our Charitable Donations

We’re like a lot of people in that we do a good deal of our charitable giving towards the end of the year.

We donate to our church weekly, but we build up a ‘Giving’ fund throughout the year.  I think the timing came about mostly because I’ve always tended to do my giving toward the end of the year.

My wife and I discussed it and we’re going to proceed as follows:

  • Colleges – Each of us will donate a little bit to the respective colleges which we attained our undergraduate degree.  I’ve donated every year since I graduated in 1996, but this will be her first donation since she graduated in 2005.
  • Food bank – There’s a local food bank we like to give to
  • Local museum – There is a museum in our community that we’ve used a lot, mostly for wedding and family pictures.  The funding has been cut more and more as the economic impact has been felt.  Since we have gotten so much from this museum over the year, we feel it’s right to donate a few dollars back.

In addtion, we donate household goods regularly (a couple of times per year)  to the Salvation Army store, which re-sells them at the local thrift store and distributes the proceeds accordingly.  I have some clothes and books in the trunk of my car that need to be dropped off.

We might have a few dollars left over, and there are of course many worthy causes in which to donate. What we donate isn’t much, but I hope it still makes an impact in lives out there somewhere.

When do you do your donations?  How do you go about deciding who gets your charitable donation dollars?