Anonymous has not received sufficient recognition.
Here is someone whose only visible means of support is writing poetry and pithy sayings, yet who is always donating money to charity in large, even huge, sums and small; who has been known to go beyond that and donate a living organ.
Miss Manners doesn't understand why we aren't being asked to attend dinners ($500 a couple, table for 10 for only $4,800) in honor of Anonymous. When will the celebrity roast be held, with celebrities recruited to enumerate Anonymous's foibles and failings with humorous exaggeration before coming to the conclusion that this is somebody really special who deserves a big hand?
Why doesn't one see the name Anonymous carved on buildings and etched in plaques? Why are there no news conferences in which Anonymous announces that these donations reflect not only a full heart but a fresh approach to making the world a better place?
What Miss Manners does understand is why Anonymous is never asked to chair benefits or serve on honorary committees associated with philanthropic organizations.
Experienced volunteers cannot be expected to work with someone who understands as little as that about how the world of charity works. It is well known among fund-raisers that the way to touch people's hearts is to invite them to glitzy events with people they admire, to reward large donations and embarrass modest ones by publishing lists of who bought into which category, and to sell opportunities to brandish names all over everything.
Anonymous refuses to play. No wonder people are suspicious. Why doesn't he--or she--want to be known as munificent?
Normally, great latitude is accorded major benefactors, and eccentricity is not only tolerated but admired. But Miss Manners cannot help noticing that speculation about Anonymous can take an unpleasant turn.
Drawing on a sophisticated understanding of the basic human drives, analysts figure that if it isn't fame and if it isn't social climbing, it must be guilt. What else is there? (Well, love of money and possessions, but we're speaking here of someone who is not only giving money away but passing up venues for displaying possessions.)
So--in an instant, Anonymous goes from being a public benefactor to being someone with a shameful secret, vainly trying to buy off his conscience. Unless, of course, Anonymous is cleverer than that. He is, after all, rich. So maybe it is recognition after all, inflated by the ploy of avoidance.
Miss Manners has some different theories, offered with apologies for their simple-mindedness:
Perhaps Anonymous does not conflate his philanthropic interests with his social life, considering that helping others and partying are unrelated activities, and that the funds for the latter should not be taken from those for the former. Perhaps he doesn't want a ton of mail and telephone calls suggesting that if he is willing to give to some charities he should be willing to give to all others.
Perhaps he is willing to forgo the standard fund-raising letter of thanks, which comes a year late, tells you what you gave then, and announces how much more you are expected to give this year. And perhaps--maybe not, but perhaps--there is still such a thing as modesty.
Dear Miss Manners:
Is it proper to require all to contribute a required amount for a Christmas gift for the boss?
In past years, Christmas bonuses were common, but in the last two years, boxes of candy or popcorn have been the gifts to staff members. Much to our surprise, this year there was no gift, not even a Christmas card. But everyone was required to contribute a certain amount of money for gifts for our two bosses.
What you are describing is known as a kickback. While the case can be made that it is an ancient custom, Miss Manners does not believe it is a savory one.
She does appreciate its being a difficult offer to refuse, but she wishes you had come to her before you succumbed. You should have told the collector that you were taking care of holiday wishes to your boss. You would then write him a group letter wishing him the best and saying how glad you all are to be working for him.
(c)1999, Judith Martin