The plan that we have worked out, and I hope improved upon year after year, has been the result of experience, and I refer to it now only as one contribution to a general subject which is of such great moment to earnest people; and this must be my excuse for speaking so frankly.
The reading, assorting, and investigating of the hundreds of letters of appeal which are received daily at my office are attended to by a department organized for this purpose. The task is not so difficult as at first it might seem. The letters are, to be sure, of great variety, from all sorts of people in every condition of life, and indeed, from all parts of the world. Four-fifths of these letters are, however, requests for money for personal use, with no other title to consideration than that the writer would be gratified to have it.
There remain numbers of requests which all must recognize as worthy of notice. These may be divided, roughly, as follows:
The claims of local charities. The town or city in which one lives has a definite appeal to all its citizens, and all good neighbours will wish to cooeperate with friends and fellow townsmen. But these local charities, hospitals, kindergartens, and the like, ought not to make appeal outside the local communities which they serve. The burden should be carried by the people who are on the spot and who are, or should be, most familiar with local needs.
Then come the national and international claims. These properly appeal especially to men of large means throughout the country, whose wealth admits of their doing something more than assist in caring for the local charities. There are many great national and international philanthropic and Christian organizations that cover the whole field of world-wide charity; and, while people of reputed wealth all receive appeals from individual workers throughout the world for personal assistance, the prudent and thoughtful giver will, more and more, choose these great and responsible organizations as the medium for his gifts and the distribution of his funds to distant fields. This has been my custom, and the experience of every day serves only to confirm its wisdom.
The great value of dealing with an organization which knows all the facts, and can best decide just where the help can be applied to the best advantage, has impressed itself upon me through the results of long years of experience. For example, one is asked to give in a certain field of missionary work a sum, for a definite purpose—let us say a hospital. To comply with this request will take, say, $10,000. It seems wise and natural to give this amount. The missionary who wants this money is working under the direction of a strong and capable religious denomination.