Unmoved by the email…

It’s “Giving Tuesday.” What I’d usually be doing right now is sitting down and making donations to the four or five organizations I wanted to throw my support behind this year – Usually it’s some combination of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, the SPCA in Maryland and Delaware, the Cecil County Animal Services office, and BARCS in Baltimore.

What I am doing right now instead of that is sitting here looking at 45 emails asking for money from every organization I’ve ever donated to and several that I haven’t. A number of the emails are from the same couple of groups.

Look, I was planning to give to some of these guys today anyway, but right now I’m throughly agitated by the amount of pointless spam they’ve launched at me. Some might say that’s a petty reason for withholding donations. That’s fine. Call me petty. I don’t need to see an email from some of them every 60-75 minutes to know they’re doing good work.

So instead of this media blitz opening my wallet, all they’ve managed to do is make sure mine stays shut today. Maybe I’ll swing back to them in a few days. Maybe I won’t. That’s going to depend entirely on how many more emails they dump into my box over the next week or so. The couple who spam me least are fairly likely to win the day.

For the love of all things good and right please help these folks with better marketing ideas than “hey, let’s send out a shit ton of email?”

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Being right. A few months ago I told someone I was afraid if X happened that Y would be the result. Now I’m not an expert in game theory, but I’ve got some small experience with strategic and operational planning. I also have a good sense of consequences and second and third order effects. The problem is being able to see a move or two ahead can be a real mixed bag and sometimes. Being right has a funny way of tasting so much like ashes in your mouth.

2. Group Hugs. About once a quarter the workforce is summoned together to participate in our version of a “town hall meeting.” It’s the preferred method here for leaders to give the impression that communication has happened. It’s fine, though it usually contains no more actual information than could comfortably be put in an email message. We all have our part to play in the show. This week’s iteration, though, included a new feature – the back half of the hall was roped off in order to drive all comers towards the front of the venue where we then spend the better part of two hours sitting elbow to eyeball with our colleagues with space feeling like it was allocated by the same people who decide how much space is need for your average coach seat on an airliner. It’s not so much like being treated as a valued employee as it is being made into a human sardine. Just add oil. Perhaps the reason people so often spread out across all 750 seats is we don’t *want* to sit in each other’s lap. Then again your way looks better for the photo op so at least we know where the priorities lay.

3. Charitable overreach. There are several charities I give to year in and year out. There are some I give to once and then never again. The fastest way to get dropped from my list is to bombard my email and old fashioned mail box with supplications for more money less than two weeks after I sent you a respectably sized check. If I sent you money, I believe in your cause and keep an eye on both you and it during the course of the year… but honest to God, if you keep bombarding me with mailers, you will be dead to me forever.

Giving Tuesday…

It’s Giving Tuesday and lest you be led to think that we here at Fortress Jeff are completely heartless bastards, here’s my list of organizations who made the cut for donations this year:

Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) – http://www.baltimoreanimalshelter.org

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – http://www.ifaw.org

World Wildlife Fund – http://www.worldwildlife.org

Ducks Unlimited – http://www.ducks.org

Cecil County Animal Services wishlist

Sure, I could have sent cash to save starving people in war torn lands, but we all know I largely find people a far less sympathetic group than I do animals. After all, I’ve met lots of people who aren’t worth a bucket of spit, but I’ve almost never met an animal that didn’t make my life better just by being.

I’d just waste the rest…

So last week Mark Zuckerberg promised to divest himself of 99% of his fortune over his lifetime. About 13 seconds later, the chattering class filled the internet with complaints that he wasn’t giving it away fast enough, or to the right causes, or that he was just structuring the donations to be a tax deduction.

Without coordinating with the founder of Facebook on where he stands on the issue, my initial response was 1) Who the hell empowered anyone to decide how fast someone should give away their own money; 2) You go ahead and pick your causes and I’ll pick mine; and 3) If you are going to give away the better part of $49 billion, you’d be absolutely insane not to plan for the tax consequences of doing so.

The super-wealthy in America have a long and noble tradition of charitable giving. The barons of the industrial age built libraries, universities, and other public institutions that still dot the country. While even in my wildest, most avaricious dreams I’m not in the company of a Rockefeller, a Carnegie, or a Zuckerberg, I pretty much want to be left alone when it comes to what I give and the causes I choose to support. In my case the causes tend to be local and animal focused almost exclusively – figuring that sick kids and the disease of the moment are always going to find reasonably strong support.

No matter how worthy your cause, telling people that they’re wrong for not donating exactly the way you do (or would) is a pretty ludicrous proposition. If you don’t like what Zuck is putting is cash behind and how it’s being structured, go on out and raise $49 billion of your own and give it away any damned way you’d like… and then remember not to claim any of it at tax time. Unless you’re planning on doing that, I’m not sure I even know what you’re talking about.

It might be helpful in this circumstance to just be glad that people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet are doing their bit. Under the same circumstances, I’m not at all sure I’d be able to restrain myself from spending half of it on gambling, alcohol, and wild women and then just plain wasting the rest.

With that in mind, my hat’s off to the lot of them.