Uncharitable Charity Gifting

by admin on August 14, 2013

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to get his mother what we thought would be a very nice and thoughtful gift – a donation in her name to the Breast Cancer foundation. (Her twin sister is a survivor of breast cancer.) We thought it would be appreciated and sent her the card saying that a donation had been made in her name.

Did she appreciate it? No! In fact, her exact words were,  “I’m so disappointed. I REALLY wanted something for MYSELF.” As in something for her that she could use/have. This was not a “I know I’m a twin but want to be treated as an individual” matter, she was just being extremely selfish. I couldn’t believe how she reacted. Thank goodness my husband agrees with me and thinks that she is being incredibly selfish.

What do you think? 0813-13

Donations to charities can be a very personal, individualized thing.  What you might support, I might not agree is worthy of my money so choosing to “gift” someone with a donation in their name can be presumptuous.  It’s not that this particular breast cancer awareness group is bad but to be honest, there are some well-intentioned charities I would not choose to be associated with due to some flaw in their mission statement or how their donated money is allocated.    For example, there is one charitable organization that advertises heavily on television and upon investigation we found that too great a percentage of every dollar donated went not to intended “victims” but rather administrative costs and advertising.   I found a similar group with a much better ratio of dollars applied to the actual people needing it.

What you did was give a gift that made you happy.  Mom should have been gracious and said nothing but obviously your donation to a charity she is obviously not affiliated with was not viewed as a gift.   If you feel the need to support breast cancer research, by all means donate to your heart’s content but don’t assume others have the same passion to assist in charitable fundraising with their birthdays used as the opportunity.

{ 149 comments… read them below or add one }

Lacey August 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Hahahaha L.J. (#28), EXACTLY! Agree with the Admin and everyone who backed up her answer.

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Lisa August 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

“there are some well-intentioned charities I would not choose to be associated with due to some flaw in their mission statement or how their donated money is allocated.”

Yes, but that’s not what MIL SAID. She said she wanted something she could use herself. So she was incredibly rude in her receipt of the gift.

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Cat August 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I don’t see how Mom-in-Law is a “gimmiepig”. She never asked for any gift at all . She simply said she would have preferred to have a gift for herself since one was given to a charity.
I had a friend who constantly gave me plant gardens. Every holiday/birthday/event, a new plant garden arrived. Year after year, after year…
I don’t have the gift for keeping plants, the cats use them as litter boxes which leaves me with dirt all over the house, and I gave so many away that I was running out of friends to whom to give them. I finally asked my friend to stop sending them.
If I give a gift, I want to know if the person enjoyed it. If not, I would rather be told than to do what my friend did-spend a lot of money for something someone did not want.

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KJR August 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

My mother didn’t receive birthday gifts or parties as a child. You better believe she loves them now! She would be pretty heartbroken to have this happen to her, and I’m sure she would not be shy about sharing this sentiment with us. I don’t consider her selfish — this is just how she feels loved by us.

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Kirsten August 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

“I couldn’t believe how she reacted. Thank goodness my husband agrees with me and thinks that she is being incredibly selfish.”

The tone of this! The utter self-righteousness! I find this quite repellent, and I find quite a lot interesting in your ‘I am totally right’ post:

How do you know your MIL’s reaction was not about being a twin?
Whom did she speak to when she said she was disappointed?
Are you surprised? Her son gave money to a charity relating to her SISTER then sent her a card telling her so. I’d be pretty disappointed, although I would not say so. Rude as she was, she could have worded it a lot more strongly.
In what way is she ‘incredibly selfish’ for being disappointed she was not given a birthday present she could use?

And finally…

Why did you slag your husband’s mother to him? You obviously did, because you say thank goodness HE agrees with ME. In other words, you have told him his mother is ‘incredibly selfish’ and he agrees with you. Good heavens. In your place, I would have said, “What a shame she didn’t like it” and left the accusations of selfishness up to him. I am sure your husband was embarrassed enough without his wife slagging his mother as well.

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Brenda August 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Yes, MIL was rude, and thereby thoughtless. OP was thoughtless, and thereby rude. Nobody won in this mess, except the breast cancer charity.*

I also have very few charities to which I donate, for many reasons. If someone were to donate to a charity in my name as a gift, I would be very angry. If I suggest a charitable donation as a gift that’s quite different.

As I get older, personal gifts to me have become few and far between. It is very nice to be remembered in a personal way once in a while; there seems to be an assumption that due to my age I don’t need gifts anymore. Well, that’s very far from the truth. Gifts, even a card, on a birthday or holiday show caring and concern.

*Watch the documentary “Pink Ribbons”

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Miss Raven August 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I have to disagree with the Admin and most of the commenters here. Some of these comments are extremely mean-spirited, judgmental, and condescending.

Gifts, even “bad” gifts, need to be taken in the spirit in which they are offered. No one is ever obligated to give you a gift, ever. Any gift should be considered generous, even if it misses the mark completely.

In this case, the OP and her husband picked a gift that they BELIEVED was thoughtful and would be appreciated. There is no reason to think this would not be the case; one would assume that MIL is extremely close to her twin and went through the ordeal alongside her. (If not, this would obviously be a silly gift.)

This isn’t like foisting your personal charity/cause upon a complete stranger. It was well thought-out and kind-spirited, and one would assume OP and her husband know his mother very well.

MIL should have kept her mouth shut on this one rather than risking looking childish and petty, and maybe next year, “Oh I was SO envying this pair of silk pajamas, wink wink”.

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Margo August 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I’m puzzled by those saying MIL was rude in accepting a gift. She wasn’t given a gift. She was told that OP and her husband had chosen to take the money they would otherwise have spent on MIL and spend it elsewhere.

I think MIL could have been more polite in acknowledging that OP had good intentions, but she isn’t selfish or a gimmie pig.

If OP and her husband wanted to give to charity they should have made their own donation.

I would only ever make a charity donation in someone’s name if I were 100% sure they would be happy with both the charity in question, and the donation-in-lieu-of-a-gift. I think it’s presumptious to decide on someone else’s behalf that they should donate to charity, and which charity it should be.

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TeamBhakta August 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm

“Any gift should be considered generous, even if it misses the mark completely.”

Not when it possibly adds the receiver to the charity’s mailing list, or (in some cases, which I’ve seen) has their name showing on Google searches / newspaper listings as “Thank you to donors for XYZ Cause this week….Mary Smith, John Jones, Heather Jackson”

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yokozbornak August 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

The only entity that received a gift in this equation was the charity, not the MIL. If the OP wants thanks and gratitude, she should expect that from the charity, not her MIL.

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Huh August 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Thinking about this, and this is complete speculation, but I wondered if MIL played the “don’t get me anything” trap.

My ex played this at every birthday. He didn’t like birthdays, didn’t want to celebrate them, didn’t want gifts, would get angry if presented a gift/taken out to dinner and given a cake, BUT if you didn’t get him a gift/take him out to dinner and give him a cake, would get even angrier. Same thing at Christmas.

So maybe MIL does this every birthday and the donation was the OP and her husband’s way to give her something, but not give her something? Something to think about, I guess.

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Jenn50 August 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Kim, I’m glad YOU have “everything you could possibly want.” Your assumption that everyone is as fortunate is incorrect.

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Miss-E August 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm

MIL should have accepted the gift graciously, those are the rules around gifts. Whatever they may be they are something that no one is obligated to give you so you can’t act like a spoiled child about it.

That said, I agree with Admin on the notion of choosing charities carefully. A very close friend of my mother’s is a breast cancer survivor and both she and my mother have a huge problem with all that pink nonsense for a multitude of reasons (like if you look into it, there’s a lot more profit being made than dollars going to research). So, someone like my mother might be slightly bothered to see money go to a charity she doesn’t support. But, again, a gracious person would not say anything more than “thank you, how kind”

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Dear! August 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I think the mother in law was very rude in how she accepted the gift. We all get gifts that are not to our liking, sometimes, but I always say it’s the thought that counts. People don’t have to do anything nice for us, and many often don’t.

I do small things for my coworkers sometimes, like when I know the team is stressed I get them little gift baskets, of snack boxes etc and leave them at their desks. Most are really happy with the surprise gesture, and it cheers them up a bit, while others say things like “Thanks, but what else do you have? Or, I don’t like this brand of so and so etc. Or, is that it? Or, can you return this and get me something else?” I basically just ignore them, though I find their comments rude. I don’t need you to express gratitude for something I chose to do to be nice, just don’t knock the gesture. I know I cant change these people…but it is annoying, so I understand your pain OP.

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Marozia August 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm

@Kirsten, I completely agree with you and applaud your comments. I also found the OP’s tone very priggish and self-righteous. Apologies to Admin, but this time I do disagree with you.
While I do understand MIL’s disappointment, her rudeness was out of place.
Next time for MIL’s B’day, ask her what she would like e.g. @MissRaven suggestion of ‘silk pyjamas’ buy her a pair of her favourite colour.

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k2 August 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm

My mum has been asking for donations to charities for years now in lieu of presents; her logic being most things she really wants, she can get for herself and she makes sure to keep a long list of charities so people who are interested in donating can pick one that she’ll like but will also work with their tastes.

That being said, I don’t think charity gifts should be given unless, like with my mum, the person has directly requested them. It might have been a bit tactless on MIL’s part to show her dislike of the gift in such a blunt way but the OP’s tone, specifically “nice and thoughtful gift” also kind of smacks of high holiness.

@Miss Raven
Even if MIL is extremely close to her sister, there’s no telling if cancer is still a sore spot for the both of them. My grandmother is in the one percent of lung cancer survivors but even though it’s in remission and she’s doing fine, she still doesn’t like to talk about cancer or even visit hospitals unless she needs to, because all it does is remind her of a very scary and sick part of her life.

So while the gift may have seemed thoughtful to the OP, it may have come across as a bad reminder to the MIL of what her sister went through. Or even if it didn’t, there’s still a difference between choosing to use your own money to support a charity and having someone else decide to use money they would have spent on a present for you to “honor” you by donating to that charity.

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Mojo August 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Every Christmas, my Grandmother donates £10 to her favourite charity for each of her grandchildren. We each get a card explaining the good works that charity does.

I accept graciously and thank her kindly, and I understand it makes her happy. It’s easier for her than buying gifts. especially since she doesn’t drive anymore. But I fundamentally disagree with the ethos of her chosen charity. It bothers me somewhat that money is being donated to them in my name.

I’d love to ask her to chose another charity, but I can’t hurt her feelings or cause her any trouble, so I suck it up. Maybe the poster’s MIL was wrong to not gratefully accept the gift, and state clearly next year what she’d rather have. But the poster was ten times worse making an assumption that supporting any organisation in someone else’s name is acceptable. Can she not think of an organisation that she objects to, that she’d rather not be associated with?

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Dee August 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

It’s the thought that counts. OP had no indication that this “gift” is anything her MIL would even remotely want. At any rate, it is nothing her MIL can use. So, the thought, in this case, which is completely non-existent, is clearly equal to the reaction it generated. MIL’s reaction was to the lack of thought, not to the “gift”. Therefore, rude as that reaction was, it was actually rather appropriate.

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Eliza August 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm

As a twin, I never got to be an individual growing up. If one of us won an award in school, the school would call mother and ask if it was okay to award it, to which the answer was always “only if the other twin gets it too.” So I never got any awards, and neither did my sister, though both of us earned many on our own. One time a rich friend invited me to vacation with her family for a week, and I wasn’t allowed to go because my sister wasn’t close to the friend and wasnt invited. Teachers would call our names on roll as a unit, into college even, as if one couldn’t possibly be abscent withouth the other. And finally, people would give one single gift for both of us on our birthday, often a thing that couldn’t possibly be enjoyed by two. I learned early to suck it up and be gracious, but all these years later I still resent it. My sister is my best friend and I wouldn’t trade her for anything, but I’m still really touchy about my status as an individual and I see red when someone assumes x about me because x about my twin. MIL was very rude in her reaction. In her place, I would have thanked you graciously, but I privately would be upset and thinking how even as an adult I don’t get something just for me on my birthday.

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Lacey August 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Everyone saying they disagree with the Admin because the MIL was rude, the Admin said that she should have accepted the gift graciously. She also said a donation to charity is a terrible gift. Those of us agreeing with her are generally agreeing with both statements.

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Lacey August 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Also, the OP’s tone is so sanctimonious that one might assume the MIL picked up on that, as well, and it could have been a factor in her reaction.

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schnickelfritz August 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Miss Raven, and the others calling the MIL rude. The MIL was hurt! I lost my Mom a few years ago. When I read this, I was floored, that ANYONE would give their dear mother, a freaking “donation” notification for a gift. The thought of handing such a notice to my Dear Mother, is so sad. All the hard work she did raising a house full of kids. All the sewing, Easter baskets, Christmas cookies – everything – and you give her a freaking “donation” card. So inappropriate. And, I agree with Kirsten and Morozia, piggish and self-righteous son and dtr in-law. I disagree that the mother is a “gimme pig” – I believe her reaction was out of shock and hurt. Well, from the Mother’s view, I totally agree. I would have a very hard time, not showing my shock and sadness. It was a very selfish gift. And, the junk mail to follow, to boot. Putting someone’s name on a charity list, without their consent, is totally wrong. I agree with so many posters above, some (if not most) of the largest, most popular charities in the US, are the gimmee pigs. I give to 3 main charities, and they are all local, within 10 miles of my home. The way this is written, the DIL is so thoughtless, to think this would be a great gift to her husband’s MOTHER!

A bottle of nice hand lotion, Gerber daisy’s, as mentioned above, I can think of a dozen things off the top of my head, a Mother would enjoy. Under $10.00. How petty, to write to this blog, hoping to have the Mother bashed, for being so hurt. Yes, any gift should be thanked for, and accepted graciously. THIS WAS NOT A GIFT TO THE MOTHER!!! It was a donation to a charity. And, the fact of the twin and the cancer, adds insult to injury.

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Margaret August 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Just a tax point — in Canada, at least, you can’t give the tax deduction to the person when you make a donation in someone’s name. I used to work a clerical job issuing tax receipts for donations, and the receipt had to go to the person who made the donation (or if a couple, it could go to either if the cheque was written on a joint account).

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Ellex August 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

“This isn’t like foisting your personal charity/cause upon a complete stranger. It was well thought-out and kind-spirited, and one would assume OP and her husband know his mother very well.”

Evidently not well enough to know that she’d want a gift she could use and not a donation to a charity for a disease her sister had.

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Gabriele August 14, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I agree with lakey…I think there’s a lot more back story than the OP provided. And the “my husband and I’ and then ‘my husband agreed with me’ makes me think the OP could be a very controlling person and the MIL had had just about enough of it. Could be the husband (as son) had had other gift-giving practices and with the OP taking over the gift-giving for the family had taken that away from the MIL.
One company I worked for had ‘donations’ to the United Way..the employee would just designate what percentage of their bi-weekly check they wanted to give. Well, I’d read about the local United Way and they funded groups I wouldn’t support and their delivery of services vs the actual amount collected wasn’t good, so I chose to opt out of the program.
I was asked by HR why I wasn’t participating as it made the company ‘look bad’ that there wasn’t 100% support. I told them why and said I earned the money and I had the right to decide what was done with it…even if it was a very small amount (and they ‘suggested’ more than a small amount) it was not in my plans.
I hope the OP is a brave person and reads all the replies. She may see her own situation differently if she does.

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Anonymous August 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

>>As a twin, I never got to be an individual growing up. If one of us won an award in school, the school would call mother and ask if it was okay to award it, to which the answer was always “only if the other twin gets it too.” So I never got any awards, and neither did my sister, though both of us earned many on our own.<<

Wow, Eliza, that is so sad. However, your post was very enlightening, and it really opened my eyes as a singleton, to learn what the "twin experience" can really be like. So, I know it's a few years too late, but I'd like to award you the "Etiquette Hell Multiple Birth Insight Award," or the "Twinsight Award" for short. Just curious, though, how did your mother handle extra-curricular activities? I mean, for example, most swimming lessons or karate dojos, etc., won't hold one child back because another child in the class isn't ready to move up, even if that other child is a twin sibling.

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startruck August 14, 2013 at 8:57 pm

i have always thought this was a strange concept. i think giving to charity is wonderful, but you should give a donation from your heart, based on what you support and its a personal action. and if you give this to someone as a gift, its like you didnt actually give them a gift. its like saying , i have a gift for you. then taking it away and giving it to someone else. that being said, i do think that mom should have smiled and said thank you. but bottom line, if you want to give to charity , give to charity . if you want to give a gift then give a gift.

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Barbarian August 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I think that if you want the well-being that comes with making a donation in memorial of a loved one, you should simply do it yourself and not try to make a gift of it for someone else.Charitable donations should not be used in lieu of gifts unless the recipient aks for it and you know for a fact that he or she supports the cause you donate to in their name.

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Kendra August 14, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I’m going to almost agree with the administration on this one. Where I disagree is whether or not the mom was rude. Unless the submission was edited, there simply isn’t enough information to determine if mom was ungracious. We don’t know if mom volunteered her feelings, or if she was asked how she felt about her so called “gift”, and answered honestly. Giving to charity in someone’s name, unless they specifically asked you to, is not a gift. It is possible that mom called to thank the op for the card, and op asked mom if she liked it. While I agree that when one receives a gift, even a gift that “missed the mark”, the recipient needs to thank the giver graciously. However, if the recipient is asked by the giver how they like the gift, it is acceptable to give an honest, though still gracious, answer. This goes under the heading “don’t ask questions you don’t want an honest answer to.”

Personally, if someone gave to a charity in my name, I would be all kinds of ticked! It wouldn’t matter if I supported the charity or not. How dare someone give in my name as if my charitable giving is not good enough. Even worse, how dare someone give my name , and possibly my contact information, to ANY organization without my knowledge or consent.

OP, this “gift” was about you, and not your mom-in-law. You co-opted her birthday for your own selfish agenda. What you did was the equivalent of saying “Hey Mom, I bought myself this new dress for your birthday. Do you like it?” then being offended when she wasn’t profusely grateful.

Like other commenters, I found the tone of the letter to be high-handed and self righteous with way too little information to really form an opinion about mom-in-law’s actions.

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Kris August 14, 2013 at 11:29 pm

As a christmas baby who has as an adult gotten used to the 3 ring circus that is even getting people together to celebrate my birthday I too would be disappointed in anyone who chose to “gift” me a charity donation, without consulting me first. There are many charities and organizations I will not in good conscious provide money to and unfortunately I am blunt and straightforward enough to tell a friend to talk with me next time. I don’t expect gifts, but they are appreciated and yes if asked I will ask for something I will like.

Also as someone who has lost their mother to breast cancer, it is a very touchy subject for myself and again certain organizations will not receive money from me. I have a friend with MS, for her birthday this year I donated money to the MS walk she was raising money – because she ASKED. If she hadn’t I might have just bought her some new fabric for her clothing projects. Gifts are about the receiver, NOT the giver.

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R August 15, 2013 at 3:13 am

I just thought it would be a nice gift since her twin sister had just survived breast cancer! Guess I was wrong!

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R August 15, 2013 at 3:34 am

Ok,
I have read the comments and I am going to try to defend myself.
First of all, I obviously did not provide enough information for all the readers. Husband’s mother is extremely passive aggressive usually so she is not a saint and we have given her normal gifts in the past (hand lotion etc) things that she wants/asked for and she was ungracious in accepting those, too.
I made her hundreds of cupcakes that she requested so that she could sell them to raise money for breast cancer for her twin sister so that is why I thought the donation to charity would be a good gift. They are very close and I thought that she would appreciate the gesture. That is all. I was just so surprised by her reaction, which is why most of you probably think I’m so “high and mighty” in my post. I just thought it would be a nice thing to do and I was vert shocked by her reaction. Since she had not appreciated any other gifts we gave her in the past and she herself was trying to raise money for the charity I thought she would like the gift. Maybe no matter what we give she will not be satisfied.
Also, she was not added to the charity’s mailing list.
We really did try to do this for her even though it was the charity that “would have benefited”.

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R August 15, 2013 at 3:37 am

Also, this was not a Birthday gift. Nowhere in my post did I ever mention that this was a Birthday present.
I have disagreed with some of Admin’s comments in the past and I disagree with this one, too.

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Kirsten August 15, 2013 at 4:32 am

This keeps happening here! An OP submits a story, asks Admin’s opinion, then comes back saying ‘I don’t agree with you because’ and adds in a whole lot of important information that changes the story. It’s unfair to the Admin to waste her time judging a half-story because an OP didn’t or wouldn’t take time to set it out with the relevant facts.

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Cherry91 August 15, 2013 at 5:35 am

This is a tricky one… I can understand where the MIL is coming from (simply from a “I would have liked something physical to open” side), but as this was a gift on a whim, instead of say an Xmas or Bday gift where there’s usally a bit more convention, I also feel she could have worded her opinion better.

On the subject of charities I wouldn’t want a donation made to, there’s one quite large organisation I will never, as long as I live, donate to, because they are so wasteful of their funds. A family friend was once hired by them to hold a training session. It was supposed to be for about 50 people, but only 5 said they were willing to attend. My friend, whose fees are done by how many people she’s expected to train, offered to cancel the session so the charity could use the money elsewhere. “No” said the charity people “We’ll do it anyway.” So my friend was paid the amount she’d have charged to train 50 people to train five, and the charity still paid for a venue and catering as if 50 people were coming (they had plenty of notice and could have cancelled or changed their plans). My friend went home and cancelled her annual donation to the charity.

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Lex August 15, 2013 at 5:39 am

I agree completely with the Admin here – it is not your right to presume to give to charity on her behalf. It was ungracious of her to make a scene about it, but it was presumptuous of you to do it in the first place. I have an Aunt that does this regularly and I hate it – I am not uncharitable, but there are SO MANY charities out there all vying for a portion of my income which I can ill afford to spare that I have to be very selective about my charitable giving and often feel guilty walking past bucket-shakers in the town centre. I don’t feel guilty giving aggressive in-your-face collectors the brush-off though. I have a particularly strong love for Cats and I prefer to support local animal charities that specifically help Cats – The Cats Protection League in particular as this is a cause close to my heart and sometimes I donate goods rather than money as I can’t afford it – I make catnip mice from scraps of fabric I recycle from old clothes and the CP can either sell them as a fundraiser or give them to the cats they rescue – I don’t care either way but I get a lot of satisfaction from such a small thing.

In future, keep your charitable giving to yourself. If you feel strongly about buying gifts, there are many home made and thoughtful gift ideas on Pinterest.

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Miss-E August 15, 2013 at 6:21 am

@R – I always thought your MIL was rude for not being gracious and now that I know that it was a charity she definitely supports then I really don’t think you did anything wrong.

As far as the comments: remember, when posting on this site, give as much detail as humanly possible because you never know what kind of excuses people will offer. And be glad that nobody suggested your MIL suffers from a mental illness!

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joni August 15, 2013 at 7:29 am

Just wanted to point out that a lower percentage of administrative costs isn’t necessarily an indicator of a better charity – the website/blog Good Intents explains this in more detail…

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AthenaC August 15, 2013 at 8:49 am

I think we have pretty much covered everything, but I wanted to throw my support in for a couple things –

1) Charitable donations as a gift are great when everyone is agreed the money is going somewhere worthwhile. My dad and his sister currently exchange Christmas “gifts” by donating to agreed-upon charities in each others’ names.

2) Nevertheless, Mom was rude in her response. Plain and simple.

3) It is important to investigate charities before money leaves your hands. At my old job, we were bullied … err … encouraged to donate to the local chapter of a certain well-known not-for-profit. The first couple years I refused because I knew that at least some of the organizations that received money through this not-for-profit are morally reprehensible to me. Also, because the local chapter was one of our audit clients, I happened to know that their controls over donations were not that great, so I didn’t think I could trust them with my money anyway. But one year I was talked into it by being told, “You can direct your money to go to certain recipient organizations but not others,” so I did. Until I received a thank-you letter saying, “Your contribution to the general fund is appreciated.” So … after all that, my money was thrown into a pool with everyone else’s money with NO direction whatsoever? Awesome (sarcasm). Never again.

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Lauren August 15, 2013 at 9:13 am

I’m not a fan of the donation to charity gift. It comes off to me as self-righteous, self-aggrandizing b.s.

I worked with a woman years ago who would donate as a gift for the whole office. We were informed of this in her Christmas cards on a little insert made of colored paper cut out by pinking shears to give them a decorative edge. I often wonder if the donation had actually been made…there’s no way to know; I don’t relish the idea of calling a charity to check up on her, and I have no idea if she donated in each of our names individually.

Why don’t people phrase it as “In lieu of giving you a gift I donated to charity?” I just don’t understand how this could ever be considered a gift.

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Library Diva August 15, 2013 at 9:14 am

R, the things you have told us completely changed the story. The fact that she had raised money for cancer in the past, the fact that she’s always extremely ungracious when you get her anything, and the fact that this wasn’t a gift for a birthday or Christmas but something you and your husband just decided to alter this story completely.

Your MIL does sound a lot more selfish in rejecting this gift when she had no reasonable expectation of one to begin with. I still stand by my belief that it’s a poor Christmas or birthday gift unless the intended recipient has expressed a desire for this sort of thing, but I agree that her reaction was extremely ungrateful, rude and even downright bizarre given that it’s a charity she does fundraising for, and that this wasn’t given in lieu of a Christmas or birthday gift. It sounds to me like giving presents to your MIL is a minefield!

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Abby August 15, 2013 at 9:34 am

@ Kirsten-

“This keeps happening here! An OP submits a story, asks Admin’s opinion, then comes back saying ‘I don’t agree with you because’ and adds in a whole lot of important information that changes the story. It’s unfair to the Admin to waste her time judging a half-story because an OP didn’t or wouldn’t take time to set it out with the relevant facts.”

I absolutely agree. I get that when you’re submitting a story, you want to keep it as concise as possible so you don’t lose your audience, but the follow up almost always reveals an entirely different story.

OP, it’s my belief that you should not donate to charity in someone else’s name as their gift unless they ask you to. However, including details in your original submission such as your MIL has never appreciated any gift given to her, and more importantly, at the time you gave her the gift, she was TRYING to raise money for that specific charity, would have shed you in a much better light.

It sounds like what you’re trying to say is that your MIL was trying to raise money for this specific charity, you donated as a gift to her (as in, it wasn’t a special occasion gift like a birthday or Christmas, it was a gift as in that you chose to donate money to that charity because it mattered to her) and she essentially said, if you’re going to donate, fine, but don’t call it a gift to me. A gift is a tangible item. If you only donated to make me happy, I would have preferred you spent your money on a tangible item for me. I’d agree that was rude, as one would assume she would be grateful. But I’d not recommend bashing your MIL to your husband, even if he does agree with you at the moment.

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Jen August 15, 2013 at 9:53 am

@OP, okay, to make sure I got the situation correct:

-It was not the MIL’s birthday, Xmas, or any other holiday.
-The MIL was raising money for the charity you made the donation to.
-You had in the past tried to give the MIL gifts and since she never liked any of those, you decided to try something different to please her.

With the additional information, I agree that the MIL was rude. I also think that in this specific case, a gift of a charity donation is a fine present.

@Admin, you stated that you stopped supporting a particular charity because they had a high percentage of donations that went to administrative fees and fundraising. While I agree that is an important factor, the total amount that goes to the cause is also a large consideration because fees that go to fundraising can pay off exponentially.

There was a story on NPR in the past year that really opened my eyes to the other factors that need to be taken into account when evaluating charities. I wish I could find a link for you, but googling “NPR charity” isn’t very effective, but I’ll try to sum it up.

Say Charity A has only 5% of its donations go to administrative and fundraising and 95% goes to the charity. However, “save” money by:

–not paying for good website design and have a frustrating and hard to navigate website, so they lose donations from people who give up before donating.
–being understaffed, so there are not enough people to answer phone calls, respond to emails, and everything else that needs to be done to actually run the charity. Workers feel overwhelmed and there is a high turnover rate, make it hard to have long-term programs and keep up efficiency because they have to keep training new people.
–not properly training staff, so if a donor actually manages to contact someone, the customer service they receive is poor and so the donor decides next time to donate elsewhere.
–not paying for large and effective fundraising efforts

So Charity A brings in 500,000 and 475,000 goes to charity. Pretty good, right? But that amount decreases yearly because they lose the valuable repeat donors and have to keep finding new ones.

Charity B has 30% of its donations go to administrative and fundraising costs and 70% go to the charity. Appalling, right? BUT they have:

– an excellent, easy to navigate website that makes it really simple for people to donate money.
– a well-trained staff with low turnover so donors get good, courteous, and correct information when they call in. Donors are not frustrated with the charity, so they tend to be repeat donors.
– big fundraisers that bring in donors who can donate lots of money to the charity.
– extensive grassroots fundraisers that bring in lots of donors who each can donate a little, bringing in lots of money to the charity.

So Charity B brings in 1,000,000 and 700,000 goes to charity. So even though the overhead was a higher percent, they bring in more actual dollars for their charity. And, they have repeat donors and add new donors every year, so their funding grows.

Now, I’m not saying high admin costs always result in more donations (some charities pay way too much to lawyers, and a charity that flies its employees first class needs to rethink its priorities) but the admin costs should be considered alongside other factors such as the total amount the charity gives to the cause.

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tasryn August 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

Wow. I am 100 percent disgusted by the comments I’ve seen here. Firstly,a gift is never rude. That is bs. Even a regift. Even a charity you don’t support. A gift is never rude. Secondly, the MIL was rude. There is only one response to a gift and that is thank you. There is no other acceptable response. Thirdly, the MIL DID support the charity in question. If she cared enough to bake cupcakes for the charity (and not just any breast cancer charity but THIS specific charity) then she should care enough to not be offended by having money donated to the charity so the commenters saying the charity was one she didn’t agree with or wrong Fourthly, the OP specifically said this was not a birthday gift or a Christmas gift so who cares that the gift wasn’t 100 percent what she wanted? Fifthly, The OP said this woman doesn’t like anything given to her even if it IS regular gifts and regularly complains so clearly NOTHING is appreciated and she IS a gimmiepig. It’s really shocking that this kind of selfishness can be tolerated. And to the commentator who said that the ONLY way to show mom you care is to buy a gift, that is utter crap. You show your mother you care by listening to her, by making her a priority in your life (I get on a plane three times a year to travel halfway around the world to see mine and guess what? She appreciates that WAY more than a gift). By telling her you love her and making memories with her. By saying that the way you show you care is getting her that blouse from Nordstrom is complete nonsense. Since when did material goods become the standard for showing love? And since when does getting the occasional gift wrong matter? The key thing is that you made an effort to show you care by giving what you thought was a thoughtful gift. A truly loving generous mother would recognise that instead of complaining about not having enough “stuff”.

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Kimierin August 15, 2013 at 11:24 am

When you submit a story, aren’t you only allowed a certain number of words? Maybe that is why some of the story the OP wrote was missing and she updated us later.

I still stand by what I said.

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admin August 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

I have no limitation on the number of words in a submission.

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Molly August 15, 2013 at 11:38 am

I feel so sorry for this MIL. If the letter writer didn’t feel her husband’s mother was worthy of a gift for herself she could have at least written in the card that she would love to give a charitable gift in her name and ask for a charity that is near and dear to her heart. Yes, I’m the mother of three boy and the thought of them being married to someone who hates me so strikes fear in my heart.

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Rosie August 15, 2013 at 11:39 am

Wow, I’m surprised how many people are opposed to the idea of charitable giving to honor a loved one for a birthday or holiday. Sure, it’s not a gift per se, but I think it’s a nice gesture. I know I’ve struggled to find the right gifts for elderly relatives, and often buy something they don’t need or really want. Yes, some of the elderly aren’t wealthy or don’t have everything they need, but we’re not talking about giving Grandma money for groceries or giving it to charity. We’re talking about buying some overpriced scented hand lotion she may or may not like or giving to charity. Either way it’s a gesture, and I think it’s up to the gift giver to try to guess which would mean more to the person receiving it. Based on the OP’s description, I think it was perfectly reasonable to assume that her MIL might have enjoyed this gesture more than a pair of silk pajamas. It’s not right for every birthday, though; you do have to know your audience, but that’s what gift-giving is all about. As far as gift-receiving goes, it’s simple: thank you, end of story, and possibly give better hints next year.

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Angel August 15, 2013 at 11:53 am

I don’t think the OP is being very fair to the MIL. Unless the MIL regularly donates to charity, or this particular charity, the gift was to make the OP feel good. The gift was NOT for the MIL. I don’t think it’s fair to chastise the MIL because she didn’t have the desired reaction to the gift. She could have been more gracious, but at the same time the OP should have taken a little more time to think about how a gift like this would be received. I always thought the purpose of giving a gift is to make the receiver happy. My advice to the OP would be to stop being so judgmental of your MIL, and just admit that the gift wasn’t a good idea for her. It might have been a good idea for someone else, but not for your MIL.

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Angel August 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

@Lauren, your story reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George doesn’t feel like buying gifts for his coworkers, so he creates a charity called the Human Fund and donates on behalf of his coworkers. So funny!

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k2 August 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

What I’m getting from this after reading the OP’s comments is that she wrote things in a deliberately vague way, expecting back pats and everyone to tell her how generous and thoughtful she was and what a spiteful old witch her MIL was and when a lot of people disagreed with her, she came back with more information that was intended to show us all how disingenuous and rude her MIL is.

That being said, I can actually understand MIL’s reaction a little more, if the gift was not intended for a specific event. In the past I have bought people things, not because I had to or because it was their birthday/anniversary/Christmas/whatever but because I saw it and thought they would like it. And a lot of my friends do the same. But if someone randomly came to me one day and said “I donated to X charity in your name, just because!” the best reaction they’d probably get from me would be “…Thanks?”.

Charity donations make wonderful gifts, if they are asked for by the recipient. But otherwise (to me at least) they can unfortunately sometimes come across as a bit self-indulgent on the part of the giver (and the comment about the hundreds of cupcakes by the OP isn’t leading me to really think she does these things without expecting effusive gratitude for them); sort of a “Oh I donated to charity for you. Isn’t that wonderful of me?”

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