Skip to content

November 19, 2011



I’ve been overwhelmed, it happens every year about this time…

Michelle and I elected to support a family for thanksgiving this year, we are buying the entire meal so they can have a proper thanksgiving, we are more than happy to share what we have been blessed with. In fact we have enough store credits that we are getting a second bird for another family, it’s a small thing but hopefully will help someone in need and brighten their lives. We also give clothes and other items when we can to the local charities, and I love shopping there to give back. We very much believe in giving and sharing to those who truly need it.

But with all the sharing that goes on this time of year, there is a darker side that no one talks about…

I work for a company who pushes community involvement in all it’s forms, on the outside it’s all about helping the community, and a great effort. But the inside reason that no one talks about is that to be quite frank, it’s good and cheap PR. I’m OK with the communal aspect, I just wish they would be honest about the PR portion, instead of spinning it as if it’s something different. I’m quite sure there are people who are gullible enough to buy into each glossy advert and declare it’s purest intentions, and there are those who understand what is going on and join anyway . I’m actually OK with that, what I’m not OK with is tweaking the corporate culture to make anyone who does not participate to be guilty of apathy.

Charities and corporations have become experts at playing the guilt card, I recently saw a message that basically told managers to make sure their people got involved in the giving. The implication was that anyone who wasn’t participating, somehow didn’t care and should be singled out. There is a simple reason that they take this tactic, it works. Guilt is a strong motivator in our society, anyone remember carbon credits? the idea was that you gave money to offset your carbon production habits, and the offsetting would make the world a better place. Never mind that the money actually didn’t go to any other purpose than to line someones pocket, and fleece those unwitting enough to actually pay for their guilty conscience.

In the past few months, I have been solicited for just about everything anyone could possibly want:

  • I’ve been asked to bring in a meal for needy families at work
  • I’ve been asked to help rake up leaves all over the community, including ones that are not my own (and my own kids won’t do our lawn, but will do the neighbors)
  • I’m supposed to bring in canned goods
  • I’ve been asked to help paint houses
  • Give Blood
  • Join in causes for green gardening
  • Carpooling with other employees
  • Riding my bike to work
  • Use energy efficient light bulbs
  • Attending meetings on green energy
  • Giving to multiple funds for multiple people
  • Walking for a cure to multiple causes
  • Give to multiple political causes
  • Donate my car for a cause
  • Bell ringers at each storefront
  • The pet store wants me to give for the humane society
  • Girl scout cookies (even to the point of setting up a cheering section at the corner of an intersection, to bring people in)
  • Stores now solicit charity from me for extra $$$ on every purchase

Then at my front door (I have a sign that says ‘No Soliciting’ by the way):

  • Magazines
  • Insurance
  • Meat from a truck at my front door (seriously!, I had to tell him to leave finally)
  • Mormomism
  • Watchtower
  • Baptist
  • Cookies (ok they always get money)
  • School events

Every place I turn, no matter where, I get asked to give something (usually money). I’m not saying these are bad things (however the Girl scouts should sell gym memberships with their cookies, cause I eat too many every year), but it is completely overwhelming. When I worked in San Francisco, they started the idea of ATM machines that would advertise while you waited, gladly that one hasn’t gone viral.

It’s all reaching a saturation point, and each year I feel a little less sympathy towards these causes. And I get honestly rude over some of the more esoteric ones, like giving from my paycheck to save the whales!. Its all so aggressive and over the top that its hard to even figure out which ones are valid, and which are just a front to line someones pocket.

When the kids where younger I had a showdown with their school over their fundraising, they wanted to kids to sell what I will call Christmas crap, bobbles and other worthless items. And they wanted the kids to canvas the neighborhood, I told them no. If you need money, I’ll write a check, because I would rather you have the money than have 200 kids pestering a neighborhood so they can win a worthless prize (trust me this stuff was all junk). And I’m not sending my kids to school so they can graduate and become door to door salesman!!. They where shocked!, they didn’t understand. How could someone be so, so, heartless. I wondered how someone could be so dense as to think this was a good idea?, if the school needs money then there are better ways to actually help the community, and teach kids to be responsible than sending them out to knock on doors armed with a magazine full of stuff that only carnivals would be able to dump.

Another good example is in our community the firemen do a bi-annual event where they ask you to fill a boot for charity, it’s a great cause! But the way they do it is that they take over EVERY stop light in and out of town. They walk up and down the line of cars begging for money. So not only do you have to wait an extra long time at the light (sometimes making you late), but you get to feel guilty at the same time, Yay Charity!! I give some every year, and two weeks later every year I end up with a sticker that I have to scrape off my window (my reward I suppose). Because if I don’t give them something, they won’t leave me alone. I guess they feel the need to go commando and force people to notice them by taking over the traffic for a day…

If if gave to every effort that we came across we would need to join the programs so we could feed ourselves!! It’s like being locked in a hotel with a bunch of starving Fuller Brush salesmen, no matter where you go, you can’t get away. After a while you just go numb…

Haven’t we taken this whole community thing a little too far? One problem I have always had with charities and programs is that in many cases they make the needy more dependent. I’ve known people who are happy to live off of people too dense to make sure that the person they are giving to is actually needy, they have no shame and figure they system owes them something, and the world is full of people who spend all their time giving what they have to make themselves feel less guilty.

Giving is about blessing someone, it should come from a desire to help your fellow man, not to assuage the guilt some marketing dweeb is heaping on you. The world will always have zealots who pick a cause, and do everything in their power to make you feel guilty. Look at any animal shelter or PETA commercial, you get pictures of soft puppy eyes, terrible situations involving animals, a moving and sad dialog, moving music. And some dweeb celebrity who feels guilty because they make more money in a day, than most of us see in a lifetime. I especially despise the ones who talk about animal adoption, aren’t human children worth more to these people? Why not adopt a child?, or help with programs that help children? (to be clear some do). I love animals, we raise fish, have cats, dogs, and chickens. But animals are easy, you can objectify them, children take real commitment. You can leave your pet while you go out and live your life, but a child requires around the clock care, no wonder so many shallow celebrities choose that as their star cause. It feeds their neurosis and doesn’t require a life change.

So here’s my advice:

If your not giving freely and cheerfully, then don’t give. Certainly don’t let someone swindle you out of money because they can make you feel guilty.

If you are unsure of where your money is going, ask before you give.

Give because others needs it, and because you feel compelled.

Be responsible, make sure your efforts are not going to waste. Give to established organizations who make the most of what they get, beware of corporate organizations, some actually use their money wisely, some don’t. Find out before you give.

If you really feel bad because that bell ringer is getting on your nerves, and the guilt is killing you (just ask the girl scouts how many cases we have purchased). Then set aside a small fund and keep it on hand. That way you can give a little, make them happy and make you feel better.

And never give money directly to someone unless you know them, money given to the homeless many times gets used in ways you would not be happy with. Responsible charities have this all worked out, and make sure that the truly needy are getting much needed supplies.

Now get off my lawn!!!


Read more from Faith, Family, Life, Ranting
1 Comment Post a comment
  1. AnneG
    Nov 29 2011

    For a minute there, I thought you lived in our neighborhood. There was a huge argument last year because the public elementary school hired a professional fundraiser to raise money. Would have been cheaper to just assess each family like $35. I won’t buy junk and only give to a few door to doors. I always give something to Salvation Army and Catholic Charities. I like how our pastor does it: Our parish has an $86,000 assessment per year for priest retirement. Please be generous, announced a few times a year. They always get it.
    I’ve lived in countries where the govt does everything and people are not generous at all. Also in places where there are lots of beggars on the streets, so am used to this. Our beggars are just more hi tech than theirs. Enjoyed it.


Share your thoughts, post a comment.


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments