The Thing With The Charity
I lived many years in Italy, and charitable work was firmly in the hands of the Church or other big organisations, like Caritas.
Then I moved to Germany, where (again) Caritas and the Diakonie were the giants.
Here in the UK, it is different. Everyone must have a charity, and I mean everyone. Even big conglomerates wants you to know how they save the children, or the planet, or the forest and use this so massively, you don’t know what they want to sell you anymore.
But it is even worse than this, as this charity mania extends to simple individuals, all of them either persuaded they are changing the world, or moved by less noble motives (I’ll come to that).
I see several problems in this:
1. Where I grew up, every form of putting oneself in centre stage was considered in very bad taste, and rather stupid anyway. You were supposed to do good without anyone knowing, because if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing there’s something wrong already.
Not up here. Here in the UK the entire street, village and office are supposed to know and, if they really don’t want to fork out, they are supposed to pay one in recognition.
2. Perhaps not in all cases, but in many cases there is a huge conflict of interest, which may become outright scrounging. As some of you might know, every fundraising charity can deduct (as it is only natural) the cost of its activity before paying the proceed of their charitable activity to the organisations meant to receive them.
Let us say I love running and would like to run the New York Marathon, but the inscription, the fares to fly across the ocean and the other costs amount to a couple of thousands. What I can do to soften the blow is to create my own fundraising initiative (which is cheap, and fast). I can, for example, “run against diabetes” and select a charity to which the proceeds of my fundraising activity, after costs, will go. Then I start “raising awareness”, that is: pumping the unwitting colleagues of the big company for which I work (if I work for a big multinational, HR might well allow me to mail thousands, or dozens of thousand of them) making myself beautiful and asking for money for the cause. If I don’t work for a multinational, there will still be a lot of potential sources of donations: club, fitness studio, colleagues, even friends and acquaintances (in that case, I’ll probably “bike against diabetes” in West Sussex, though). Of course I will never recover the costs of aeroplane, hotel and inscription fees, but I will able to set all the proceeds from my naive colleagues against my costs, and will run with the beautiful t-shirt of my charity: ain’t I a splendid fellow…
Bottom line: the “real” charity does not see a penny (unless I give them £50, because I am so good), I get a subsidy for my New York Marathon, and make myself beautiful at the same time. The example of the New York Marathon was not chosen at random (it is, actually, personal experience; with several “fundraisers”), but you can see similar examples everywhere: I sail against this, I run against that. Fine, but you would have sailed and run anyway because it’s your hobby, and unless you promise me you won’t charge your own costs I pretty well know you want me to, well, pay for your hobby.
I can’t say whether the first or second issue grates me more. The first, probably, because the behaviour of these sanctimonious (if in good faith) scroungers (if in bad faith) is particularly disturbing when you come from a country and mentality where such behaviour is particularly frowned upon. But I can’t avoid thinking that every day in this country hard-working people give away money thinking they are doing something good against leukaemia, when they are merely subsidising the favourite sport activity of some colleague they don’t even know.
My suggestion is that the readers pick a limited a number of very good Catholic charities above every suspicion (like Aid to the Church in Need, or The Verona Fathers, or The Catholic Truth Society) and stick to that and to the donations to their own church.