Bob Driver sig (new)

The above title could easily serve as the motto of the entire fundraising industry, which has become one of the largest and most powerful enterprises in our land.

If you doubt that, just go to your mailbox. Or switch on your TV set. There you may find several requests for your hard-earned dollar, or what is left after you buy groceries or pay the rent.

I don't blame the fundraisers for trying. Everyone could use a few extra dollars at one time or another. And no one will arrest you or me for failing to contribute to a worthy cause. And indeed, sending a ten-spot or a thousand dollars to a child or an organization in need always gives the giver a good feeling.

What grabs my attention are the various tricks of the trade that fundraisers use to curry our favor and maybe pry loose a contribution.

Such as individualized first-name use on the letter that accompanies a mailed request. Somehow, for example, most of the fund-raisers have learned that my nickname is Bob, rather than Rob, Bobby, or one of the other appellations that can be squeezed out of "Robert." It is seldom that a fund-raising letter begins with Mr. Driver.

Which is OK by me. I also answer to "Hey, you!" On the other hand, the fundraisers sometimes address me as "President" or "Professor," although I'm undeserving of either of those lofty titles.

I always wonder how much time and money the fundraisers spend researching the given first names of every single addressee on their mailing lists. And how to they know whether to butter up a "Gwendolyn" by

calling her "Gwen"? Or shortening an "Archibald" to "Archie?"

Undeserved compliments are a common tool. Fifteen years ago I sent a modest check to a highly-respected civil rights group. They not only thanked me but also added my name to their automatic membership list. Since then I haven't contributed a single dime to them, but each year they send me a renewal membership card and a thank you for my "continued generosity."

Many years ago, I worked in public relations and fundraising for a large university. I didn't much like the fundraising part. It required its staff to judge people by the size of their bank accounts instead of the largeness of heart. But that attitude is common among many persons who work in other fields, as well. Besides, most educational institutions need to be adept at fundraising. If they aren't good at it, they can quickly go under.

"Brother, can you spare a dime?" was the anthem of the Great Depression. It was recorded in 1932, three years after the crash began. The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg, the melody composed by Jay Gorney. Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee sang it.

The song told of how a person could bravely serve in World War I, come home to build the railroads and skyscrapers of the Roaring Twenties, and then end up begging for handouts when the big party ended.

Could that grim tale be repeated by COVID-19? Let's hope not. Maybe there's a more cheerful tune waiting around the corner — such as "Happy Days Are Here Again," that signaled the end of Prohibition.

Till then, let's smile and greet each other in the mailroom, as we dole out our dimes and dollars to people who need them more than we do.

Bob Driver's email address is tralee71@comcast.net.