Stitchers are givers in so very many ways. We give our hearts and souls to the recipients of every single piece we work on, whether we give them to family members, keep them for ourselves, or donate the pieces to charity. I have limited wall space, and don’t really have family here in Finland. For many years now I have worked with different volunteer and charity groups. There are some great ones out there that really do an outstanding job helping others, and there are some totally lousy ones that do a great job – at helping themselves. That’s not to say that helping yourself is a bad thing. It’s only bad if you are not up front about it. I recently got involved with a group that sounded really great in the beginning but turned into a nightmare.
But how do you figure out who the good ones are, and who to stay away from? Here’s my current list of guidelines. If you have others you want to add, please do leave a comment!
- Target – do your donations go where they should?
There are horror stories out there of people sending completed panels to be used for hospital donations only to hear later that they were used for fundraising efforts.
- Communication – do they let you know promptly when your donations arrive? When they are due? Where to send them?
The good charities post pictures and send you emails when they get your donation. They have active social media groups that tell you clearly where something is to be sent and when. The others? They just leave you guessing. The bad ones won’t even tell you when you ask if your work has been received.
- Transparency – Do they make all the decisions behind closed doors? Are they open about what has been received and what they have done with it? Do they publish pictures? If so, where?
This is the big one for me. Who decides where your items go? Do you have a say in what goes where? Many groups do fundraisers or beg for donations of supplies. What do they do with them? For most of these groups, the biggest expenses are postage. Each stitcher provides their own fabric and floss as well as chart, so there really is little need for donation of these items! There are exceptions, of course, but 95% of the time, the volunteers have their own supplies!
- Hidden Skeletons – Are they a corporation? What kind of perks or salaries to the board members receive?
This is another minefield. If the group is an organized charity (think Red Cross), they have a board of directors and do have to provide all kinds of reports. They have to employ accountants to do these reports along with filing tax returns. Who pays the salaries? If the group begs for supplies, what happens to them? Are they sent to the volunteers to use for stitching, or do the board members hang on to them and use them for personal gain? What kind of track record to they have? Can you find their record on their website? Do they even have a website?
- Other aspects – How easy are they to work with? How approachable?
Many groups today use Facebook or Yahoo Groups to stay in touch. Yahoo can be a bit tricky, but Facebook seems to have taken over. When you ask to join their group, how long does it take for them to respond? If you ask for information, do you have to wait for a week for someone to get around to answering you? How active are they? Do the members seem to be friendly?
Please don’t think it is all doom and gloom out there. There are a lot of great groups to work with that benefit every cause you can imagine. There are also more rip-off artists posing as charities that just want your donations for their own personal need and greed.