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    « Terrier Tuesday -- Can We Have a Serious Tawk -- About Food? | Main | Well. »

    Wednesday, June 09, 2010


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    {hug} (Oh I know you hate hugs. Just shut up and take it!)

    I usually prefer to take the ostrich approach in the borderline situations in the knit-charity sphere. Keeps my blood pressure down. Not that scam artists shouldn't get their comeuppance, mind you.


    Thanks for posting this. I figured it out about the 50% already, but obviously forgot about the tax thing. What happens in the UK with donations is that you tick a box if you're a tax payer and automatically 28% gets added by the government. So instead of getting just my £10, the charity gets "our" £12.8, and I would never make a "second profit". I'm sure there are ways around this, but I'm not terribly clever with taxes so we'll have to wait for somebody else to clarify how to do that then.

    And if anybody comes round to give you a flaming, then perhaps they can also care to explain why your doubts are unfounded and clear up the issue once and for all. The gauntlet has been thrown... :-)


    OK - random thoughts follow. It's early here. By and large, I agree with you, but these are some of the thoughts you've sparked off.

    If I was to release a fundraiser pattern... I doubt it'd make more than a couple hundred bucks. (I'm not a famous Big Name, I have no groupies.) I'd be happy to accept 25-50% of the proceeds as payment against future work arising from donating that pattern. That is, I'm happy donating the work of writing/publishing the pattern, but I'd also be happy to accept some remuneration for all the ongoing, downstream pattern support. Everything from, "Sorry to bother you, but I think the stitch count might be off", through "How does a cable cast on work again?" to "OMG you suck cos I can't make the collar work and it might be 2 aye emm where you live but I don't care cos I emailed you 5 mins ago and you haven't replied and I'll never buy anything from you again because I hate you and you suck!!!" that some internet knitterz have been known to demand. Why am I willing to donate the design but not the support? That's probably a whole other psychological issue, so nevermind...

    I like the idea of capping designer profit. If I was a Big Famous Name, that's probably the way I'd go. I hope. Fair remuneration is one thing, but skimming big profits off the top of charity and disaster is another.

    I actually also have some reservations about giving 100% of the proceeds to charity, too. The designer will still profit, in kudos, hero-status, possible extra fame, and future sales. Maybe less profit overall, certainly less immediate profit, but still profit. Still a touch of carpe diem, and using the disasters of the world to bolster one's own standing. Long story short, it's still advertising! There will always be people who act in cynicism, and there will also be those that don't.

    I know Ravelry recently did the 'help for haiti' thing. (And yes, it bugs me that the patterns are still showing those tags even though the donation period is over). I hadn't really thought about it, but I sort-of assumed that Ravelry was handling the money side of things, but I guess probably not. Call me selfish, but I took that opportunity to buy some patterns (which already existed) and which were in my queue already, and give a little to charity at the same time. My queue is longer than my likely lifespan, so it's perfectly possible that the designers have profited from me buying a pattern that I'll never knit, but I kinda intended to buy those patterns anyway. I would certainly never buy a pattern I didn't like to support a charity - I'd just donate to the charity.

    We have a bunch of semi-regular, national charity events in the UK, and I hate them. BBC children in need, red nose day and the like. The Public gets whipped into a fervour of mawkish sentimentality (usually) and overpaid celebrities do telly shows and every ad break urges people to phone in their monetary support. It raises vast amounts of money, but makes me feel rather sick. I would rather people lived a conscious lifestyle of giving, and of not screwing over the third world, every day of their lives. Giving once or twice a year for a big event really doesn't give you a free pass for the rest of your life.

    And yes - the tax deductible thing doesn't work that way in the UK, so it's less of an issue for us. It's a very interesting point in the US tax system, though.

    Signed, yrs curmudgeonly (and also in realisation that this is longer than most of my own blog posts!)


    Nice rant. Love ya.


    This same issue has crossed my mind more than once, especially when the Haiti disaster occurred. I am so glad you finally brought it out of the closet here. I will be interested to see how support on this issue falls. Thanks for entertaining me every day!


    With you all the way on this one Norma...unless I can verify that 100% of my donation goes to those who need it...and I reallyreally believe in the charity, it goes into the family fund...aka the savings account...for our own rainy day when we won't need to ask others for help, we'll help our own...
    I've even learned to be suspicious of places where I send knitted items...very few of them post pictures of actual items in the hands of actual recipients...the Red Scarf group being one that does...good for them!
    Glad you decided to say something...


    Agree or disagree (I agree on this issue, but sometimes I don't), please don't stop. Even if I don't agree you approach your topics with intelligence and balance.


    I totally agree; but, did someone actually fake her/his death as part of a scam?


    I think I've bought patterns with this sort of thing before but I can't say for sure. What you are saying does make perfect sense, though, and I will reconsider how this works for any future purchases. I did not participate in the Ravelry/haiti earthquake thing. I don't know - it just seemed forced to me.


    Excellent points, Norma. "Fundraising" is kind of the snake-oil sales of the nonprofit world --- set up to create a sense of urgency, while pulling at your heartstrings and making you (the donor) "feel good." It is offensive when we learn (or just plain old figure out) that "someone" is profiting from "someone else's" tragedy. The issues behind "fundraising" are complicated -- your post shows the "dark side." Keep it up, Norma!


    Oh, yes. Maybe even more than once. I'll leave it to others to
    expound, because I don't have all the details.

    Emily G

    I felt similarly about the "red" campaign - I'd rather give my $10 to MSF directly than to a third party.

    elizabeth a airhart

    i have been giveing a thought
    or more to giveing try to make
    sure what little i give goes to
    the right place and is used
    by the people in need

    i am a breast cancer survior
    one is most careful of buy this
    and i will give that in stores
    and ads but i am most careful
    with the internet

    i enjoy red scarf and norma
    out in the open will help
    with so many people needing
    help care is needed in helping


    STand up and applauds loudly... as a fundraiser for Cancer Charities over here in the UK I support this entirely. I think the only charity I've supported online like this ahs been YArn HArlot and MSF, but as she sends us direct to the MSF I was very happy with this. Same goes for red scarf project although I've not supported that one but have been hunting online for a similar project in UK that supports Foster kids over here. To no avail... may just knit a scarf and send it over this year.

    Thank you for pointing out what people sometimes forget in their enthusiasm to a support a cause. Donors should always ask that very important question.. how much of the money I am handing over goes to the charity's cause? I was very pleased to see how small a percentage goes to Admin costs in the Red Scarf Project.

    Connie G.

    I echo your sentiments, Norma. Well done.

    Though I appreciate that others make donations for some worthy group, we all have our special charities that are near and dear to us for a reason. Most of us, though, contribute and don't shout it from the mountaintops about how much or even if we have made a donation. How about some humility here?

    And I applaud you and others who urge us to give directly to an organization by bringing an awareness to that organization through your (and others) words.

    Keep it up, please.


    Good points. I have bought at least one fundraising-pattern, but it was a pattern I would probably have bought anyway...and I figured it might help out a smidge. If I really want to help some cause, yeah, I'll donate directly. The tax deduction thing is something I hadn't really considered, but I don't itemize. Hm.


    I think you've said what many of us are thinking. I think about that when I see all those shamrocks or whatever hanging in store windows. It doesn't cost them a cent to donate to a cause. Or when they sell those $10 boxes to feed the needy that the customer buys that the store then donates? Ah, well, here's Scrooge signing off!


    Good point, Norma. I missed the most recent charity flurry on Ravelry, too much else going on. I do contribute to Knitters without Borders, but that doesn't work in the way you describe. I have been known to buy a pattern or two in the past. Oddly enough, I can't remember what the crisis was. My other donation areas have been Heifer International and FINCA, which distributes microloans to women around the world to develop family and local businesses, which improve living standards in a cascading fashion.
    You always make me think, and I will put this post in my pipe and smoke it for a while, since I'm not allowed cigarettes any longer.


    Interesting thought provoking post. I'll confess to having bought one of the Haiti patterns, that I may or may not have bought without the possible donation.

    And I do appreciate you bringing to your readers attention, other knitters that are doing something for a cause, and the donation goes directly to the cause.


    Enjoyable rant. Good to remind people of this. The thought's crossed my mind to do some "charity" like this on my blog, and you've reminded me to keep things as honest as possible.

    Laura from beautiful West Michigan

    I may not always agree with you, but please, never shut up. You make me think through things and I appreciate that!

    Cheryl S.

    This is why companies LOVE to join the Susan G. Komen "Pink" campaigns. They earn a huge amount of money from them.


    Loved the fund raising rant enough to come out of the lurker box. Three cheers. Maybe you should get a job in the war room during the next political campaign. I also enjoyed, but wonder about the artificial sweetener "expose." Like did you hear about the study where rats preferred food to cocaine? So is good old food more addicting?

    Cindy in Happy Valley

    Just the reasons I've NEVER purchased an item, of any kind, to support a cause. For me to do so, the cause would have to have the following attributes:

    1) The entire profit from the item in question would ALL have to go to the cause. Only the actual cost of making said item would be kept by the person offering it.

    2) The item is already in production, is common, and I purchase it anyway. Like the donations of corporations if you purchase their detergent or soap or whatever. Yes, they get a corporate deduction at the end of the day, but it keeps people working (to make the product), I use it anyway, and a cause benefits. Got no problems with this. Seems to be a win-win-win.

    Otherwise, if I am moved by a particular cause I donate directly, and I, personally, particularly focus on small, local efforts.

    But this is just me!


    I love the way you think! I purchased patterns through rav's Haiti Relief program and felt pretty good about, then the designer posted the tally a few weeks later as you mentioned. I do fall into the category of "probably wouldn't have purchased the pattern otherwise". In my opinion, your method of fundraising/scarf-raising is more righteous. Still, giving is good, especially if others aren't as generous as they should be and need a carrot dangled. Just my two cents. Really happy you wrote this post, though. Motives should be examined!


    There is a website that will help you decide which charities really use your money properly. I am pretty sure it is called Charity Navigator, spread sheets are included, with salaries, and spending is shown. I never make a significant donation without checking first.


    This hits close to home in a couple of ways. I generally just shake my head but you're so good for us Norma - keep on ranting!


    Here's something a friend and I talked about yesterday. Hurricane in Haiti. Horrible devastation. Actors/singers get together for big concert/fundraiser aired on national TV. Hurray for George Clooney, etc. Oil spill in the Gulf. Nada for the fishermen, wildlife, etc. Where's John Mellencamp, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson???
    Kudos for helping a very poor country such as Haiti, but what about our backyard?
    Thank you for letting ME rant.


    Yeah, what she said!

    It's sad that "buyer beware" has morphed into "giver beware". Nonetheless, the need is there, we need to figure out how to rise to that challenge.


    I have had some of the same thoughts, but for me it wasn't a big deal. In the end, some money got donated (which is good). I bought patterns I was going to buy anyway, and $10 or so is not going to significantly affect my tax deductions. The interesting thing I learned in all this is how much money some people make by selling knitting patterns! Who knew?


    Along the same lines, do all the companies that have pink ribbons on their products actually give something to breast cancer research? Or do they put the pink ribbon on the packaging and reap the benefits of the public thinking that they are helping a cause by buying the product?


    Leave it to Norma to say what many of us are thinking. You may get peoples dander up, but you do speak the truth.


    I bought a Haiti pattern for $6.50. $5.00 of it went to Haiti and continues to do so (as opposed to putting the time limit on it and then keeping the flag which I think SUCKS- if it's to be donated- donate it- even if you do make a haul).

    I think I am respectfully disagreeing with some of your words. What does a knit-designer have to offer in the face of such a tragedy. She can give her own money or she can use the skills she has to rally others and find a way to help them give en masse. I'm o.k. with the purchase and I like the sense of community that's created.

    (full disclosure-I am not a knit-designer- nor am I closely attached to any. I just buy patterns.)


    Thanks for the well-written, thought-provoking rant! I have looked at these same issues in part myself, since Hurricane Katrina when DH was sent to the Gulf and came back with eye-opening stories about the Red Cross and their mis-management. I have learned to research my charities more carefully and was already a well-informed donor when it came time to make contributions for Haiti; had already donated my maximum allowance to two trusted relief organizations before Ravelry rolled out their bandwagon and decided to pass on pattern-purchasing. I would rather either knit for charity or donate hard-earned cash (especially these days in my part of the globe) to direct services. Thanks for having the cojonoes to speak up.


    Here's the thing though- I'm guessing that most of the people who buy a pattern where 50% of the profit goes to charity would not have actually donated the equivalent if not for the pattern deal. Part of it has to do with amounts- say it's an $8 pattern. So four dollars would go to charity. Most people are not going to bother donating $4 to charity b/c they think it's too little. (Either that, or they just can't be bothered, or whatever other reason, but IMO it's a pool of people who are unlikely to donate otherwise.)

    But if the designer sells 100 patterns, look, the charity gets $400! (I'm just going on the assumption that the designer is honest, I know that's not always the case but let's pretend it is for now.) So from a group of people who would have donated Zero, Charity X now has four hundred bucks. I think this is pretty good.

    And it's kind of a pet issue of mine, that people who can't afford to donate hundreds of dollars to charity think they can't do anything. People who can only afford to give $5 or $10 often don't give at all, b/c they think it's too little. But if everyone who thought that way gave that $5, it would really add up.

    Joan (Albuquerque, NM)


    Thanks, Norma. Also thanks to Alison--loved your comment!

    I understood when I "gave" by buying the Haiti knitting patterns that (1) the designer might not actually give the money, but I choose to believe that they will, and (2) that they get a tax deduction and I don't. But like many others, I chose that moment to buy a couple of patterns that were in my queue anyway.

    Recently I bought red yarn for red scarves from a company from a link on your blog... They provided a discount on some very nice yarn, which was darned nice of them. But I expect that for them it is treated as an advertising expense for taxes. They have given me/us the opportunity to send red scarves back to them so they can send to Red Scarf project, and if I do they will enter my name in a drawing for free yarn. I haven't decided but will probably just send my scarves directly to the Red Scarf project and pass up the drawing opportunity. I don't blame the yarn people--they probably just want to be sure that I didn't take their discount and use the yarn for some non-charity project.

    I will post my red scarves on Ravelry so you can see that they exist, though I suppose that there wouldn't be any way to check to see that I actually sent them....


    First of all -- I am totally doing something wrong, because all my patterns together over all the years I've been doing this have never made $45K! Guess I should put out a charity pattern :)

    Secondly -- I agree with all you've said. I think people need to be smart, informed donors, just as they should be smart, informed consumers. My family actually has a registered charity in my dad's name. We donate all our time (there are no salaries or perks -- believe me!), take no cuts and give all the money we make to local charities -- charities that we know personally.

    It may be easy to purchase a pattern and feel like you've done something for someone, but unless you get your hands in things, how can you truly say you have?

    Lynn in VA

    OMG do not even get me started on the Komen scam. They make the Red Cross look like kindergartners. The whole idea of linking charity with marketing makes my skin crawl.

    But to bring this back to the knitterly world, if you are serious about writing a pattern for a cause, then write the pattern and give it free to anyone who donates directly to the cause. Sure, there will be some scum-suckers who will say they donated to get a free pattern, but better that than the stench of opportunism floating around the designer. Or just donate to the cause, and shut up about it. If it's a marketing ploy you're looking for, then do whatever the hell you want, but don't get all huffy when you get called out on it.


    I love to see you with your big stick, stirring things up!
    I've always felt that "I will donate X% of the profits of this pattern to Y" was a little smarmy. If you want to make a donation, make a donation. If you want other people to make donations, suggest to them that they make a donation. Capitalizing on other people's pain is not charity.

    Robin V

    Interesting post! For my part, I never buy something just because a portion of the proceeds will go to charity. I do sometimes buy such items, but only because I already planned to (this includes patterns on Ravelry, pink pens at OfficeMax, etc etc). If the seller donates to a good cause, wonderful!

    I am okay with their getting the tax benefit - after all, it really is their donation. (For my part, I get a pattern, or a pen, or whatever, at a cost that I must have felt was reasonable.)

    If they are crooked and don't make the donation, well, that's okay with me, since I didn't make the purchase specifically to benefit the charity. (And, they'll face their Maker someday...)

    That said, PLEASE share details about a retreat organizer who 'died' - sounds like a juicy tale...!


    Very well done! and you know where I stand. :^)


    Love. This. Post. hate the Red Cross. i donate through my church, because i know that all of the people disseminating the "stuff" are volunteers, and nobody is paid. as far as i know, 100% goes toward buying supplies and shipping said supplies to their destination. Norma, youre ten kinds of awesome.


    I agree with you completely, Norma. Another fund raising tactic that drives me crazy are the schools that ask children to sell wrapping paper, chocolate, etc. Do parents not realize that a company is getting free labor from school children to line their own pockets? These companies give schools a portion of their proceeds, but it is usually less than 50%. Not to mention that the products themselves are way overpriced. This has bugged me for years!


    I'm OK with the "x% of profits will go to..." deal for pattern designers assuming that's what will really happen. It's up to purchasers to vote with their feet/wallets if they feel it's scammy or would prefer to donate directly. Problem is, short of wiring money directly to an individual in need, it's really hard to know if a donation is going to be used as directed by the giver. We donated through Ox-Fam America to Haiti, after doing some research about the most trustworthy organizations. In sum - I'm NOT OK with large, well-known, heavily-funded tax exempt organizations misrepresenting how they operate or who benefits from their largesse. It happens way too commonly, and it's sick.


    right on. keep it up.

    Becky in VT

    Yup, I'm sure you are opening a pandora's box on this one. But (and I haven't read anyone else's comments yet) I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents.

    I think you're right that people should be cautious about businesses donating to good causes. And I say this as a designer who donated 50% of profits (a whopping $22.50) to DWB after the haiti earthquake.

    Consumers should be aware when they purchase goods under these conditions. They should be aware that they are purchasing a product, not making a donation. That should be obvious because they receive a product at the end of the transaction. (be it yarn, patterns, or perfume - I bought some from a favorite company of mine doing this same promotion) If it's a product you were going to buy anyway, and the business does actually pass on the money, then all for the good. And I did buy some patterns (and some perfume) under these conditions. But I also made a personal donation directly to DWB, because I wanted to help directly. And the money I donated came from patterns I'd designed in the past, not from something designed "especially" for the cause. And hopefully the people who bought my pattern understood that too.

    I think you're right that as consumers we should be cautious and thoughtful about these arrangements. And as business people we should be open about the results (yes, I did take that $22.50 deduction from my taxes) Everything you're saying here rings true to me, because I thought all this through when I decided to donate some of my pattern sales. But I also think you're right that many consumers aren't thinking everything through. And I hope your post will open their eyes. Whether or not this practice continues, we should all be open and up-front about what it means. I like honestly in my capitalism.


    Thank you! Well said.

    Just another way for a certain sort of person take advantage of the naive and slightly clueless/out of the loop.

    My favorite 'faked her own death' is still that sock designer who 'died' but photos of her tattoos were suddenly being posted by 'another user' at Ravelry. Silly thing. Not everyone is as stupid as she must have thought.


    I agree with Adrienne--I don't think too many people will bother to donate the price of a latte, but will feel good knowing their little bits will be added together to make an impact.

    I only donate to designers/dyers whose work I like and who I feel I have some sort of "connection" with. I have zero problems with them getting the tax deduction. If that's what it takes to get funds to Haiti etc. I am O.K. with that. Even if that's their main intention (the tax deduction) the good karma wins, IMHO. Someone besides them benefited. That's good enough for me. The fact that they also benefited isn't a good enough reason not to give.

    I understand where you're coming from, and this issue has crossed my mind, but I find it sad that we've come to see ulterior motives behind every good deed. I've made a conscious decision to not let this deter me from giving--I just try to give "smarter," as you suggested.

    Thanks, btw, for the all the work you do for the Red Scarf Project. It's been on my mind a lot lately, since my own DD will head off to college next year.


    I'm even more jaded than you. I'd much rather donate my time or goods to a charity than funds. It's often the volunteer time or office supplies groups need, not just tons of checks. Money can be used for administration only or pocketed, it's usually hard to give away coffee filters or used clothing.

    (And, yes, the whole "Look at me being a hero for giving away some of my profits!" thing pisses me off.)


    Nail on the head, Norma!!

    I have a tale to tell, too. Spent many hours making a small quilt for auction. Sent quilt at proper time, went to the event to buy back my quilt.... the kicker: a worker stole the quilt. It was never auctioned!! I will NOT give to that charity ever again.

    The comments to this entry are closed.


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