... bear in mind this shocking (and kind of depressing) article from the New York Times ("Telemarketers Take Hefty Share of Charity Dollars, Cuomo Says", December 30, 2008):
On average, just 39 cents of every dollar raised by commercial telemarketing companies for charities in New York State actually go to charity, the state attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, concluded in a report issued on Tuesday. The balance, he found, is used to pay fees and expenses associated with professional fund-raising.
I've personally had a very bad experience with a charity telemarketer. I got a call from a local charity that I had donated to in the past, and while I thought the call was from one of the charity's volunteers, it was actually from a paid telemarketer. This person was relentless in asking me for a gift, and when I mentioned that I was having a problem and could actually use some assistance from the charity, he just kept pushing for a donation. Ugh!
Next time you get one of these calls, ask if the caller is a volunteer, or ask if they can mail you some info, or ask if you can donate online. Lots of options for you, the generous donor!