Monday, November 28, 2005

This whole business with all these different kind of charities has always really annoyed me. Maybe I’m just cold-hearted or something but whenever I see one of those guys with a clipboard approaching me in the street going, ‘Can I take a minute of your time?’ (which really means ‘Just give me your credit card you moron.’), my first instinct is to punch them right on the nose. I don’t do it but this is definitely what my heart tells me to do.
I had always been sceptical of all these charities that are popping up all over the place like poisonous mushrooms, but then all my cynicism was confirmed when this friend of mine started going out into the street, collecting money for a charity because (and I’m quoting her here) ‘There was good money in it.’ It wasn’t great money. It was like working in McDonald’s or something like that but the way she saw it, being outside or in a shopping centre and just shaking a box in front of people’s faces and being able to take a break whenever she liked, was much nicer than running around and sweating away all day in a McDonald’s or Burger King’s.
So what happened was she would collect money for a few hours, then she would go back to the charity place and there they would count the money and give her her wages. She told me that often after taking her money, there wasn’t anything left for the charity at all! Who would have thought it, hey? So when you’re feeling a bit generous and you go and put a pound in a box to help children who have difficulty identifying different kind of flowers or men who feel left out because they don’t like drinking larger or squirrels who are allergic to nuts, what you are actually doing is funding an art student through college! A very good deed of course but probably not what you’d had in mind.
The guys with clipboards are different. I’m sure some of them work for nothing but the rest take a commission every time they manage to emotionally blackmail someone into giving them their money.
This poor friend of mine who has recently come over from Iran became a victim of one of these charities. Some sort of children’s charity I think it is and he gives them three pounds a week now.
He was talking to me about this a few weeks ago saying that although three pounds a week is quite a bit of money, he is willing to give it if he knows that he is making a difference in some children’s lives, but what was really annoying him was all these letters that he was now receiving from the charity. He said that once a week he gets a letter from them thanking him for his help and it’s not even a letter that says we’ve done this and that, it’s just the same letter every time with a picture of a cute kid on it that says thank you. Then at least twice a month he gets other letters inviting him to buy tickets to charity events or letters that come from other charities linked to this one that also want his money. He said now he never even opens any of them and just throws them in the bin.
I could really understand why he was so bothered about this. I mean nobody likes junk mail but I’m sure you would hate it even more if you knew that what paid for this annoying junk mail was your hard-earned cash that you were giving to some charity thinking that you were helping kids in need or something. To top it off now you have to worry about destroying the environment as well since if you hadn’t agreed to give your three pounds a week to this charity you could have saved all that paper for those six letters and six envelopes that you are now throwing in the bin every month.
The way I see it though the problem is that a lot of us give money to charity just to make ourselves feel better and most of us don’t really care what happens to our money afterwards. It makes us feel like we’ve done something good and so we don’t want to hear anything else. But then every now and again something like the Cheri Blair thing (basically she spoke at a charity event where they raised £81,700 of which £74,900 paid for the dinner and guest speakers, leaving only £6,729 for the children’s cancer charity that it was supposed to be raising money for) or the Make Poverty History wristbands thing (that were allegedly made in sweatshops in China) and forces you to think about where it is that our money is actually going to.
Maybe I’m being a bit too negative about this whole thing but the way I see it most of this money for charities is given by people like us (who are not really that well off at all) and is taken by people who are actually not in need. Basically it’s just the old rich get richer and the poor get poorer story again.

15 comments:

linda said...

ok.. wat is it Monday dilemma??
In all honesty I think everybody have thought about it couple of times, one of my freinds who grew up really poor said she prefers to go and identify the needy personally and help them in person, she said the feeling can not be put into words.....
Back in Iran I hated beggers, I always refused to give them any money. My grandma is from Kashan and she said:" In Kashan we had no beggers, it was insulting to Kashis to see one in the street. It meant that they have ignored the needy..."
But then in these day and age, who has time to go and find the needy in person.Whenever I can afford to give to charities, I give. I am not sure how they spend it, I can only hope for the best. But personally I need to do something that makes me feel good about myself, and reminds me that all the money that I have doesn't belong only to me...

Em said...

In Singapore,we have many charitable organisations.

Singaporeans on the whole donate a great deal.Recently a CEO of a said charity resigned due to irregularities in terms of salary.He was paid $60k per month and flew first class or business class for is business trips.

Makes u wonder wer the all money went to.

Foulla said...

i give to organized charities,like Care,unicef,...i feel better.but i used to give to beggars in Morocco,and i believe i'll feel worst if i don't since i'll keep asking myself:maybe he's really poor,maybe she needs desperatly my quarters..

GazanKhan said...

Basicly always those are in need of money help the charities because first they know how it is to be poor and second the rich do not give money away, otherwise they couldn't stay rich; there are so many in need of money that if all the rich people give all their money the problem still exist and it will become worse because they too become poor and will need money! So You are right, we have to be careful and don't pay our money to those who change it to caviar and eat it. Bastards!

Shirin said...

It wasn’t exactly a Monday dilemma. This is something that is always on my mind. The thing is, believe it or not, I would love to make the world a better place but unfortunately I’m not one of those people who can just give and then feel better about themselves. I really envy you Linda for being able to do that. I think it probably makes you the better person but I just can’t help it; I really care about who my money goes to and so if I find out later that it had gone to Cheri Blair instead of children with cancer or some Chinese gangster, then that makes me wish I hadn’t given my money away. The funny thing is that for example these two charities that Cherie Blair was fundraising for and at the end only received 8% of the money raised, were apparently ‘happy with the outcome’! which makes me think that this kind of thing is probably the norm when a charity invites a celebrity to a fundraising event.
Basically what annoys me so much is the fact that I think most of the money we collect for charities is either given to celebrities as payment or goes towards paying for them to fly first class to an African country with a camera crew and be filmed pointing at a kid and looking sad. Or as you said Em, to that CEO to fly first class and make so much money out of it.
I’m sure there are a lot of good charity organisations out there as well as you said Foulla but unfortunately one bad apple spoils the whole barrel. The thing is as you said as well, you would think that you can trust big organisations like Unicef but even with that I can remember a few years ago the part of Unicef organisation that was in Iran was under scrutiny after apparently none of the money went to where it should have gone and all the clothes that were sent to Iran for the needy were being sold on the Friday market.

Shirin said...

Ooh Hi Gazankhan, I think I left you out in my other comment. Lucky for you actually, now you don’t have to read all that ;-) Yes our motto should be, ‘No more money for those caviar eaters.’

Foulla said...

"No more money for those caviar eaters.’..like it;)

amanda kay said...

shirin, you've sparked quite the forum here ;-) as someone who went for working at a non-profit charitable organization to working for a company that sells $250,000 cars, i've definitely seen both sides of the capitalistic spectrum. and the fact that the company i now work for is more successful than ever despite poor conditions in the economy and the automotive industry is a good indication that the rich get richer. i really like the idea of seeking out people and giving the money to those who really need it directly, or doing the sort of random acts of kindness type of things for people in your life that need it.

Ricia said...

It's very important that folks whom can donate, do their research. There ARE some fantastic NGO's that actually utilise funds in productive ways... I would venture to say that throwing the baby out with the bathwater (the bad apple analogy) shrugs off personal responsibility.. All it takes is a wee bit extra effort for people to do the research and be informed.

There are many ways to contribute to "making the world a better place". Money is but one option. Donating time is another really big needed deal, living 'by example' (where possible), representing oneself compassionately in the workings of the day in and out.... Even the week tiny things count - if everybody did the wee tiny things, the world would be a better place!

my morning coffee two bits...

Anahita said...

the ones with the clipboards get paid 7£ per hour, that was the going rate when kids at my uni were looking for jobs....im sure most of the 3 pounds a week goes on rubbish, its all useless. if you gave 10 minutes of your time to talk to a lonely person or maybe do some voluntary work that has much more real value, but i agree it all about "making ourselves feel better" because we are "helping". These people totally prey on guilt and the charities who do this really suck!

Anonymous said...

If everybody gave a little bit there would not be any extreme hunger or poverty left in the world. Why can't we - collectively as humans -- find a way to do this?

asad said...

http://www.childsplaycharity.org/
is where I usually donate, I've done it for the past 3 years and I don't have to worry about where my money goes since all you are doing is buying toys for kids in hospitals. You pick the toy on amazon and they ship it all there around christmas time. You might be paying a bit of overhead to amazon but it's nothing more than you would to any other toy store.

Em said...

Hey Shirin

Can I link u to me blog...

Shirin said...

Of course you can link me Em, I’ll link you too :-)

Thanks for the link Asad. That does sound like a good place to give to.

Anonymous, very good question. And I think I might know the answer to it as well. I mean it’s just my opinion actually, it’s probably not the answer at all but here it goes anyway: It’s because as much as we all like to go on about humanity and how all humans are so nice and all that, a lot of us are actually unkind and only think about ourselves and are very greedy and will do anything to get ahead in life. The richer we get, the more money we want and no matter how successful and happy we are in life, we always want more.
I’m not saying everyone is like this but I’m pretty sure that fifty percent of the people are. Or maybe I’m just premenstrual. Who knows?
Incidentally, are you the guy in America with the taps? If yes, I hope you didn’t forget to thank the lord at this thanksgiving for the luxury of having mixer-taps that their water neither burns nor freezes your hands ;-)

7 pounds an hour Anahita?! That is so much. The charity will be lucky if these guys make their own wages then.

Ricia, true. All I’m saying is that I don’t like the fact that a lot of people use the needy as bait to take our money and then just keep it for themselves. I really don’t think the bad apple analogy shrugs off personal responsibility. I actually think kidding ourselves into thinking we are helping the needy when in reality we are just giving money to make a rich guy even richer is shrugging off personal responsibility. At least this way if we point to the bad apples and be sceptical of the rest, they might all start sorting themselves out a bit.

I agree a.k.g, random acts of kindness :-)
How clever was your fortune cookie! I’ve never had one you know. Maybe I’ll try them when I come over.

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