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.