You have made a interesting giant leap from an incident of a Turkey dinner at a church charity auction to all charities everywhere. That's a bit OTT. I can imaging being outraged enough to want my donation back if I found out that the charity work was a fraud -- the money going for a trip to the Bahamas instead of the homeless for instance, but I can't imagine demanding my money back because an auction item wasn't sufficient or even delivered. I support charities, and I buy retail items. The two are totally separate financial transactions for me.
Good grief, $50 is nothing for a charitable donation for tax purposes -- and would only make any difference if the Turkey Lady itemizes her taxes rather than takes the standard deduction. Seriously, the rules for tax deductions on charitable donations are much more strict than most people think: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Eight-Tips-for-Deducting-Charitable-Contributions. Another good article is http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2011/06/18/giving-to-charity-great-staying-off-irs-radar-priceless/
And according to #3 on the list provided by the IRS and on the Forbes.com article, since the "donation" was of equal value as the dinner (according to the OP), sister would not get to claim any of the $50 on her taxes as a donation to the church, and if the item were worth more than what she paid, she still couldn't claim anything. It seems that now that sister didn't benefit by getting a turkey dinner, she can actually claim the charitable donation, but only if the church is on the IRS's qualified charities list (it must appear or it won't count).
My point for using a sweater was more this: this is a donation to a charity not a retail purchase. Demanding a refund for a charitable donation in any form is outrageous to me.
So by your logic, any charitable organization can offer anything they want in exchange for a donation but has no obligation to actually follow through and make good on their promise. Because, after all, it's outrageous to demand a refund for a charitable donation.
I don't think I can agree with that.
That's certainly an admirable viewpoint. If everyone felt that way, there would be no need to hold an auction in the first place. Or any other kind of fundraiser where the promise was the exchange of something of value in return for the donation. The church could have simply asked for donations from everyone and people would have donated. End of story.
Unfortunately, that's not how things work. Well, I should say, sure, sometimes they do work that way. But clearly not always since so many charitable organizations do in fact put on fundraisers which offer some kind of additional value, aside from the satisfaction of donating, in return for donations.
And then I'm right back where I was. Church promised something in return for a donation. That promise was not kept. Regardless of whose fault it was, the buyer did not receive the promised value for her donation. Once the buyer points this out to the church, it becomes the church's responsibility to make good.
Once the church enters into an agreement, i.e. turkey dinner in return for $50 (or whatever) donation, then it is on them to make good on that agreement. It's an agreement between two parties, regardless of who those parties are, charitable organization, business, individual, whatever.