Every year around this time, I find myself surrounded by fund-raising efforts of every size, shape and colour. And every year, I’m struck by the same feeling – the vast majority of these consist of impractical little trinkets or the same kind of dull items being offered year after year, like key chains and Christmas cards, pens and car stickers.
When I saw this Freshly Pressed piece, 11 Holiday Gift Programs That Benefit Nonprofits and Make the World A Better Place :: 2011 Edition, it reminded me of a great divide – locally, many of the charities and fund-raising activities I’ve observed are severely limited in imagination, and I personally feel most people give out of guilt rather than any belief that what they are doing actually helps.
Christmas cards, key chains, notebooks, car stickers…I’m so tired of seeing these things, for two reasons. Firstly, how many of these things are actually put to use? They’re more likely to end up in the trash, and that is the second reason why it’s distasteful to me – materials and resources are being used up that will only end up being thrown away. It’s pure waste being generated, with a tiny sum going to the charity in question.
And I really can’t help feeling sorry for the charities – they need the money. Heaven knows they need the money and the support. But they have so little to work with – I’ve come across so many instances where volunteers have no idea what they’re doing there, where the people responsible for fund-raising have no experience doing so (hence the same old thing year after year), and where the common disposition is that it doesn’t need to be done professionally, because it’s JUST a charity, JUST volunteer work.
It’s just so wrong, and I wonder if it’s because most charities and other NGOs here are not paid at all, in contrast to many societies and organizations overseas which have skilled people running things, people who are there to make a difference and not just to look good or feel good without having to do anything significant beyond saying “I volunteered’.
I don’t feel inspired to volunteer for events that generate more waste than good, like so-called fund-raising dinners, or maybe I just don’t have the disposition to deal with a situation where things are being poorly handled.
I suppose the solution would be to dive right in and make everything right myself? I can hear potential responses and accusations already ie ‘get off YOUR butt and do something about then!’ Or perhaps ‘quit complaining and get your hands dirty first, before you open your big fat mouth’.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the people who do the work, and yes, when it comes right down to it, I am ashamed that I don’t get my hands dirty. It’s a hurdle I have yet to overcome, for a variety of reasons, although I do donate and support several charities.
But it brings me back to the same point – that the scope or impact of my donations feel hollow, insignificant. With that in mind, I suppose there’s no hope of my ending on a positive note, as I would prefer, but I do have hope that people can make a difference – there are already so many out there who do, and so many more like me who wish they could be more like them yet find it so difficult to do so.
To anyone reading this who pours their blood, sweat and tears into organizations that help others – human, animal or environmental – thanks for being great examples for the rest of us. I was told once that ‘there are many ways to serve’ and I’m still looking for my ‘way’, and if you’re anything like me, I hope the advice works for you too.