Opinion: When it comes to charity fundraising, sometimes the selfish decision is the best one

Opinion: When it comes to charity fundraising, sometimes the selfish decision is the best one

By Elizabeth Davies

I can either financially support myself, or financially support a good cause.

And while I’d love to do both, sometimes the selfish decision is ultimately the right one.

I walk around Auckland city on a daily basis, and every time I do so I awkwardly avoid eye contact, put my headphones on and stare clear of those bright coloured rain jackets and proudly held clipboards.

I’m sure the cause is incredibly worthy, and their arguments convincing but I do not have the capacity to explain once again why I’m both unable and unwilling to commit to an on-going donation to a particular charity.

Professional fundraisers or chuggers (charity muggers) as the British papers have dubbed them, certainly have a rough go of it.

Trust me, I know, having spent about a week in the job. For five days I walked door to door attempting to convince people to commit to a monthly donation to save the hectors dolphin.

I was good. I’m friendly, well –spoken, I knew how to make people care.

I didn’t however, know how to close.

At the end of the day I couldn’t honestly, confidently look people in the eye and say ‘Just do it, it’s the best decision for you’.

I was held back, distracted by the two young children standing at their single mother’s feet, the run down house, and the plain fact that maybe if someone is home in the middle of the day it’s a sign they aren’t earning a hell of a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, professional fundraisers are incredibly important.

Charities rely on them to raise a huge percentage of their funds.

I urge you to remember ( even when they knock on your door in the middle of dinner, or call you at the most inconvenient time possible ), they are just people, trying to make a living.

The work they do is incredibly important and they are not malicious or soulless.

The things you say to them are not easily forgotten or shrugged off and yes you can and will make them cry – trust me.

All that being said there are other ways to help your chosen cause.

For the last three years on the second weekend of November ( this one just past ) I have volunteered as an area co-ordinator or collector for the SPCA street appeal.

I recognised that despite not having the cash to make a difference, I am a student. If I have anything to give away it’s my time.

I’ve met hundreds of amazing people who give up a few hours of their weekend to put cat ears on, hold a bucket and give the animals a voice.

I may have had to give up my Saturday morning sleep in but it genuinely feels good to do something to help.

I’m repaid in suspiciously warm, fuzzy feelings, hundreds of dog snuggles and I like to think I’m putting a little something in the financial karma bank.


*Elizabeth Davies is a 23 year old post-graduate journalism student at Auckland University of Technology. She lives with her partner in Epsom and spends her free time refurbishing vintage furniture and attempting to bake while fighting a daily battle against her bank balance. She writes a weekly article for interest.co.nz on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.

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It is not selfish to support ones self and family and you can't give what you don't have.
I have to confess to not liking the philosophy of karma or its obvious conclusions.
if you say people get what they deserve then the state of their circumstance must be what they deserve.  Therefore we can systemtically victimise whole classes of people for generations, call them untouchable and call it karma.
Also, if people must get what they deserve, how is there room for mercy in the world?

Yes I agree.
Why do you have to 'confess?'
Do you think karma is a generally accepted philosophy and to not subscribe puts you outside the norm?

Exactly.  It has become very popular around me.

Points nicely made! Glad you can't close , you must have good character.
The hostility that one encounters at times to helping; shouts of do-gooder , hand wringer, Individual resposibility yada, seem to be acompanied by an addiction & aspiration to modern bling.
As a famous Grand designs person once said :
"This house is bristling with modern day bling suited to the thrusting young professional"
I love that.........says it all.

Could you give some specific examples of people helping and being subjected to hostility as a result?
This sort of complaint often comes from the kind of people whose idea of "helping" is actually a case of "offering the other kid's bat" - demonstrating their commitment and generosity by taking from somebody else to give to the object of their concern

There is a kind of doorknocker that just loves the challenge and can be very very pushy.   It doesn't matter if it's a charity, a vacuum cleaner or anything really.    Amnesty International knocked on my door.  The young man tried to engage me in banter while pretending to be breathless and blown away by the support from the neighbours.   "The whole street is behind this" he said, with well-rehearsed (false) excitement.     
I think it is wrong to put people on the spot with emotive dilemmas.   There's a form of cynical exploitation going on at some level which I am not happy about.  
The lady outside the supermarket with a can collecting for guide dogs doesn't brandish direct debit forms at me or beckon me over with insincere banter.     

Study after study finds that lower income folks give a greater percentage of their disposable income to charity;
I have often wondered whether this is because generally the lower the income the less assertive the individual and therefore the less comfortable with saying no.  
Many decades ago, I worked for a very successful, hard working, wealthy person who, in principal, never gave to anything charitable - as he saw the overall welfare of a population as a government responsibility. He felt the more that private individuals/private sector accepted some of this charitable responsibility from a monetary point of view (he had no problem volunteering time as long as it wasn't to raise money) - the less government would feel obliged to do their job of redistributing income/wealth. Point was he had no problem paying individual or corporate taxes - and if more welfare was needed locally or globally, then he felt governments should collect the additional tax/income needed in order to appropriately feed and house those who were struggling. 
On reflection given the way the world has gone since - with neoliberalism's ideological principle of 'trickle down' (which includes this notion of charity/PPPs doing the job of government) - I'm leaning toward a we-should-all-learn-to-refuse camp. 
Just yesterday I renewed my annual sub for the rescue helicopter service and every year I think it ridiculous that this service relies on private funding to survive. Meanwhile, the government funds private beneficiaries of agricultural intensification and fibre optic broadband.  And as for saving the hector dolphin - it doesn't take money to do that - it just takes good regulation that is appropriately enforced.
We've all been hoodwinked.