I was walking down the street. The sky was sunny, the weather warm and the two student approaching me with a look of quiet desperation in their eyes, were on a mission. Collecting for charity is not the easiest job, certainly it would be high on the list of jobs that I would never want to do and I appreciate the effort people make when they do. They were collecting for HIV research and after I handed over the money that I had decided to give, they gave me a piece of cheap plastic to wear around my wrist.
I’m not certain how or when it happened exactly, but somewhere along the way, charity donations became an exchange, a marketing exercise. These days, there is a ribbon day for just about anything, wrist bands, broaches, pins, badges, pens. The sheer volume of rubbish that charities want to give you for making a donation is legendary. Then there are the more insidious donation requests that require your credit card, sticking you on a mailing list and mounds of paperwork every few months or so. I’m certain marketing agencies spend a great many dollars coming up with their shtick to make you remember their charity. A way to make their cause the flavour of said day. World “give a donation” day, but honestly, I think it’s getting a bit much.
I have spent a great deal of time in call centres and I know all about what goes on inside those charity collection agencies. Staff are forced to browbeat those who have made a donation with good intentions, determined to get every single cent out of them that they possibly can. Now I am certain that every charity will tell you that they never do that, but they do. They outsource to some company who takes a group of backpackers and gives them a list of people to pursue relentlessly. I understand that there are finite resources, especially when it comes to charitable work and that charities are under great pressure to get funding however, often the people being chased for additional contributions are people with good hearts who can barely afford what they are giving as it is. Charity shouldn’t be like this. Charity shouldn’t be something a person with an open heart dreads.
There was a story I saw about a couple from somewhere in the US. (Yes I know the specifics but I am choosing not to share.) They made an “anonymous” donation to a charity and now there is a news story about this. I have seen several links to the story. The feel good moments that the media latch on to whilst they try and remind us how terrible the world is. Anonymous is anonymous and you have to wonder if the same people who made the donation would make the same donation again knowing what will happen as a result. Charity isn’t about getting your name in the paper and it probably shouldn’t be about getting stuff either. It never used to be.
In the bad old days there were stories about fraudulent charity collectors, money was harder to track, and I imagine there is a higher risk that something would happen to the funds, but for me, I probably gave more. At the most when I give a donation, I just want a receipt if it is for a decent amount. I’ll probably lose it but there is always the chance that it ends up on my tax return and that seems fair to me. Certainly I find it easier to give money to the beggar on the street and even though I know that there is a good chance that the money will probably not go exactly where I would like it to go but that’s how it goes sometimes.
I am not the most charitable person out there but I like to give when I have a few dollars. It makes me feel good knowing that the coffee I was going to get is now going to returning someone’s eyesight or a goat for a village somewhere. It can be a spur of the moment thing and I take great pleasure from the act. I don’t need other people to know what I did. I don’t need some useless keepsake and mounds of paperwork or hired guns trying to get more money out of me. I have never met anyone yet who said that they enjoyed giving their credit card details to random people on the street for regular contributions with a hefty minimum monthly donation.
I want to give, I want to give more than I do, but I want to do it quickly, anonymously and be able to wander away imagining that coffee I am not drinking.