How do you support so many worthy causes?

By Steve Dinnen

I just got my first Christmas card. And at least my 51st Christmas-tide letter from a charitable organization asking for financial support.

Over the past few weeks, the mail carrier has delivered appeals from: the ACLU, American Indian College Fund, Amnesty International, Audubon Society, the Carter Center, Catholic Extension, Catholic Relief Services, Des Moines Catholic Worker, Disabled American Veterans, Doctors Without Borders, Ducks Unlimited, Environmental Defense Fund, FINCA, Food Bank of Iowa, Heifer International, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Obama Foundation, Oxfam, Salvation Army, Self Help International, Sisters of St. Benedict, UNICEF and Willa Cather Center.

I could go on, but you get the idea: Everybody wants a piece of my checkbook. Yours, too, most likely.

So what are we to do? All of this correspondence comes from good people doing good deeds. I’ve supported most of them in the past. But sending off a check to absolutely everyone will deplete my treasury more than I can afford. So now comes the juggling act of figuring out who gets what. Locals first, like the Food Bank? Religious organizations? (The Catholics seem to have me dialed in.)

I struggle with this every year, even now that donations for tax write-offs are largely a thing of the past. I have no great solutions or strategies. If you do, let me know. Send a note to

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