Okay, I'll admit it; in the past few years I've gotten a lot more involved in causes I believe in. Because of my involvement in signing petitions, forwarding the petitions and other links in social media, etc., I generally have a full mailbox to read through every day.
But in the past few months, I've actually grown very reluctant to read these emails. Why, you ask? For one very simple reason... Instead of thanking me for my support, which is what I received during the beginning, the emails now are all about one thing: requesting I donate money to them, and sometimes going to the extreme, trying to shame me when I don't immediately respond with a donation.
Don't get me wrong; I realize in order to run these not-for-profit organizations it takes a lot of money, and they would fold if they didn't get donations. But shaming those who do not donate; how is that going to get them the money they are asking? Does it not occur to them that it's not always a matter of people saying they "won't" donate? That sometimes it is they "can't" donate?
I am in the latter category. I have RA and severe scoliosis (Curvature of the spine), and I have a persistent severe anemia related to my RA. In addition, I have COPD. So my ability to work is very limited, even though I've refused to stop working entirely. I am well-educated (I've got an MA, and had been working on a PhD before I got sick), and I've been teaching as an adjunct instructor for a number of years now. My husband went back to school in 2002, and due to a learning disability, took until 2009 to get his terminal degree. He had been working, but lost his job in 2005 due to earlier health issues. Then, just two weeks before he got his dream job to become a counselor to at-risk pre-teens and teens, he had a heart attack in 2010 and had to have open-heart surgery in 2011. His health is still precarious, so he had to give up his dream, and he is now on disability. So, basically, neither of us is uneducated, as many think low income individuals are; it is severe health issues that keep our income so low.
As far as my part of the income, if you don't know a lot about teaching as an adjunct instructor, then you don't know that we are paid very little for our work. Compared to ranked faculty, who start out at around $26k and by the time they have been there as long as I have are paid around $38k (At least they did last time I checked; it may be more or less now), I get paid $2000 per semester per each class I teach. I've been able to teach three classes of 32 students/class a semester, so I get paid $6000 a semester, which is broken up into four months of paychecks. I do not teach summers (Not my choice), plus there is a month between Fall and Spring semesters, so I am only paid 8 months a year. That's $12,000 a year gross. I am still paying on my student loans, and so is my husband. He gets close to $1300 a month gross. Out of that, other than nearly $200/mo going to student loans from each of our checks, we're paying a mortgage on an old house that's needing a lot of work, paying on a used car that is badly needing some repairs, paying utilities that are inexorably going up, etc. All of these bills and other necessities come out of $27,600 gross a year. And in the month between semesters and the three long months of summer, it all has to come out of $1300 gross.
Heaven forbid I get sick enough to see a doctor. Why, you ask? Because I've not had health insurance since my husband lost his job, so I've not seen a doctor since 2005. An adjunct is not eligible for employer-subsidized insurance, and I couldn't afford to get private insurance, even if the insurance companies would sign me, which they possibly wouldn't with my pre-existing conditions. So, until the Affordable Health Care Act is fully implemented, I am without insurance. I try not to think what my first checkup will find when I am finally covered after 8 years being without.
Because of the lack of insurance, all the medication I've been able to get for the past 8 years is over-the-counter pain medication, as well as over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. Thankfully, my husband has VA medical, or he'd have probably been dead by now. He gets his health care and medications from the VA, but he has to pay a co-pay for each of them. Add my medications and his co-pays to the bills and other necessities to what we have to pay out of $27,600 a year gross.
Could you manage all of that on so little? Could you then donate money to all the causes near and dear to your heart? I know; some of you reading this are well acquainted with similar circumstances. Please know, I am pleading for your benefit, as well.
I do what I can to support the various organizations that I believe in. And I have donated some money, don't get me wrong. Plus, I support the organizations with my time and efforts to get their messages out there. But I simply cannot do anything else. Yet still nearly every email I get from them now asks me to donate more money, with many of them trying to shame me into it. The emails mention if they don't make their funding goal, then they can't guarantee their campaign will be successful; all might be lost. Especially because the organizations that are against their campaign are getting more donations. Surely I can donate only $15, that's not much, is it? Or $10, or even only $3? Come on, don't I believe enough to give them so little? Less than the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee? Is a life, is the loss of an endangered species, is the state of the environment, is equality for every individual, etc. not worth more? How can I possibly not donate?
If I had it, I would give, no question about it. I do believe. I would even do like some suggest, allow them to debit a monthly donation. I know they need money to continue their efforts, to be successful in their campaigns. But we don't buy Starbucks coffee; we buy store brand ground coffee, and sometimes we do without even that because there are more important things for which we have to use the money. Even $3 would be missed because it might be direly needed for us to live. And to those of you out there trying to make ends meet like we are, I know you understand what it's like, that many of you feel the same as I do.
So, next time, if you're the person in an organization who writes the emails to ask for donations, please consider that the person you're sending it to may not be in the position to afford to donate. Also, if you're a web designer for an organization, please consider providing a place on the website for someone to opt out of receiving emails asking for donations. I would like to be able to read my email again without feeling pressured to give something I cannot afford to give. I would even be glad to explain to you directly why I can't donate money. And to the organization itself, please realize I am still a staunch supporter, and even if I don't have the money to donate, I will still give freely of my time and non-monetary efforts to get your message out there. I know you're a worthy organization, or I would not be supporting you, so I know you'll understand. Thank you from all of those also in my boat and from me for your consideration.