Matt C. Abbott
Alarmist fundraising
By Matt C. Abbott
October 6, 2010

When was the last time you received from a non-profit organization an e-mail or 'snail mail' letter begging for money in an alarmist fashion?

For many of you reading this column, probably not too long ago.

"Donate now! Do it now! Please! We desperately need your help!! Time is running out!! We're going to die if you don't send your very generous donation right now!!"

Well, something along those lines.

Every so often, I'll hear about some reputable organization spending money — donors' money — on items or services that are at best questionable. When I hear about such things, I can't help but think of the alarmist fundraising letters sent out by certain organizations and wonder to myself, what's wrong with this picture?

Look, I do realize that non-profit organizations need money to operate. And many of them do indeed do good work. In fact, if I had extra money to give, there are several organizations to which I would donate. But is it appropriate for these organizations to regularly disseminate near-hysterical fundraising pitches, especially when employees of said organizations are making decent-to-very-good salaries and, in some cases, money is being spent in a questionable manner?

We often hear of government waste — and there is a lot of that, no doubt — but what about the wasteful spending by some non-profit organizations whose donors assume their money is going toward funding works of charity?

I'm not singling out any one organization, nor am I suggesting that all non-profit organizations spend money inappropriately. That's obviously not the case. But I do believe people should be wary of organizations that constantly sound the alarm in nearly every fundraising letter they send out. Don't be afraid to do a little investigating.

A couple of months ago, I received the following (edited) e-mail solicitation from a Catholic company that shall remain nameless:

    'This past weekend, former President Bill Clinton spent 800 times more on his daughter's wedding than did an entire group of 20,000 Catholics who were asked to help a desperate non-profit Catholic group. Noting the disproportion between the estimated $3 million Bill Clinton spent for the wedding and the $4,000 that 20,000 Catholics donated to his [redacted], [redacted] said, 'It's certainly discouraging. Not that Bill Clinton would spend that much: he's always been passionate about the things he wants, and never hesitated to go out and get them. He wants Chelsea to have a big wedding? She gets it.'

    'But when I see 20,000 Catholics respond to a desperate appeal with contributions less than what one man pays to rent Port-a-Pottys for a day, I wonder how many of those Catholics really want what they think they want. Even good Catholics are spending more time on Facebook [and] giving less to the Church than to Comcast. It's Monday morning, and what's the score?' asks [redacted]. 'The Clintons 800; Catholics 1.'

    'Friday, [redacted] needed $30,000 to continue; this morning it still needs $26,000 (just a bit more than Bill paid for hair and makeup). Says [redacted]: 'Without strong financial help from committed Catholics, we can't recover. Nor do I have the strength to start anew. There's only so much a man can take. Maybe this lack of support means it's time for us to leave the field.' Is it too late to help? 'No. I have $26,000 in overdue bills I must pay this week. If I can do that, we'll be stable again.' And if you don't succeed? 'We cease [operating].' Then the score would be: Clintons 800; Catholics 0.'

Normally I don't respond to such e-mails, but this one irked me. So I responded:

"I'm sorry that [redacted] isn't doing better financially, but, in my opinion, an e-letter such as this is bordering on insulting. I think it's safe to say that Bill Clinton has a lot more money than most of, if not all, the Catholics on your e-mail list. Times are tough for many people; the money just isn't there. I'm presently unemployed and I don't get paid for my columns. Wouldn't it be far more charitable on your part to thank those who have been able to donate to [redacted] and nicely ask for additional donations from those who are able to do so?"

The company's owner responded:

"I live in a city of little more than 100,000 people that has in it probably thirty Catholic churches built in the late 1800's when Manchester was populated largely by poor Irish and French-Canadian immigrants who had barely enough to eat and yet gave of what little they had to build glorious churches. Now half to three-quarters of those churches are closed, while Catholics drive SUVs.

"Were Catholics today to give to the Church and related causes in the proportion of their income that they did 120 years ago, this would be a glorious time for Catholicism and its apostolates; instead, we stumble from month to month and you don't get paid at all. I think this, and even more so, the closing of the Catholic schools and churches, is a sign of the drying up of generosity in the Catholic heart. And were it a matter of the economy, Protestant churches would be struggling, too, but most are not: they rightly preach sacrifice and stewardship, and their people hear."

Several days later, the company sent out the following (edited) e-mail:

    'Thus (I imagine) ran the thoughts of the nine lepers Jesus healed, the ones who failed to go back to thank Him. It's not that they were ungrateful; they just suddenly had so much to do. And though I've often thought otherwise, this morning I realized that I'm one of the nine lepers who didn't return.

    'You see, last week I cried out twice for contributions to save our non-profit Catholic [company], and hundreds of you responded, affording us enough money to continue. With money in hand to take up the projects I'd put on hold, I rushed forward eagerly, to engage my people and take on the world. But I didn't pause to thank you . . . for your contributions and your prayers.

    'Then just this morning into my thoughts came the story of the lepers and the realization that like the nine, I'd not given thanks to the ones who'd saved me. I fear that financial desperation has begun to cripple me spiritually. For the moment, however, I'm healed; and although we are still quite poor, the company is stable again.

    'By means of this letter, I return to you — to each of you who made a donation and offered a prayer — and thank you for saving our company. I promise to renew my prayers for you, and to beg God to nurture in me and in you the sweet virtue of gratitude, without which we will never know the Lord. Thank you, and please pray for us.'

And for me as well.

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback and story ideas. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if they're marked confidential. Also, if you give me permission to publish a quote of yours, please do not contact me at a later time to request that I delete your name. Only in limited circumstances will I quote anonymous sources. Thank you and God bless!)


Receive future articles by Matt C. Abbott: Click here

More by this author


Stephen Stone
'The fervent prayer of the righteous'

Siena Hoefling
Protect the Children: Update with VIDEO

Stephen Stone
Flashback: Dems' fake claim that Trump and Utah congressional hopeful Burgess Owens want 'renewed nuclear testing' blows up when examined

Cliff Kincaid
The new face of the GOP is trans

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Raising children: Our designs, God’s designs, and what parents learn about themselves

Judie Brown
Family is not just a word

Michael Bresciani
Bruce Jenner talks about arriving at the Pearly Gates – America’s confusion

Cliff Kincaid
The big business buffoons who run Berkshire Hathaway

Pete Riehm
People just wanna have freedom!

Neil Brian Goldberg
The quiet purge

Judie Brown
Judie Brown responds to Bishop McElroy

Rev. Austin Miles
Mothers: a gift or not a gift?

Judie Brown
Planned Parenthood upset with Biden

Steve A. Stone
A few words about a few topics

Jerry Newcombe
Teaching kids that America was always racist
  More columns


Click for full cartoon
More cartoons

RSS feeds



Matt C. Abbott
Chris Adamo
Russ J. Alan
Bonnie Alba
Chuck Baldwin
Kevin J. Banet
J. Matt Barber
Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
. . .
[See more]

Sister sites