Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Valuable donation receipt

The patrons come up to me at the front desk of the library with their little bags of paperback books to donate. Forgettable books in middling condition; street value of 11 cents.

"I would like to donate these books." They say proudly.

I am very appreciative. Eleven cents is eleven cents. They thought of us. They want us to be better, richer, stronger. They want us to prosper, and by extension they want literacy, reading, truth, art, and beauty to prosper. My warm heart goes out to them! "Oh thank you so much!" I cry. "Yes, we will add them to the collection if they are useful to us, which almost certainly they aren't. Or we will try to sell them for a few coins, which, eventually, add up over time. But whatever we do with these we honor your selfless generosity and love of the library."

"Can I get a donation receipt?" They ask. And my heart freezes.

Many of my co-workers regularly offer donation receipts to the people who donate items to us. It may even be the right thing to do. But I doubt that I've freely offered a single donation receipt in the last decade. I feel it cheapens the transaction. Are they donating out of the goodness of their souls or are they running a tax avoidance scheme? Some things are complicated, all shades of gray. But this one is straight up to me; without a receipt it's a gift, with a receipt it's a purchase. 

Without a receipt it is pure largess. It is a gift, an act of kindness.

With their receipt they get something, we get something, and neither of them are worth much.

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