Not charities

September 24, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More

This. Is. Infuriating. If you follow the link, you’ll see that Bono’s “charity” collected $15M to help starving African children but only distributed 185K.   The lion’s share of the money it collected was for the executives and employees and the charities, not the cause for which donors gave the money.   To make things worse, this “charity” tried to entice donors to help out by handing out $15 bags containing Starbucks coffee and designer water bottles.  This should be criminal.

Image by fotogiunta at dreamstime (with permission)

It happens in charities small and large. Not all charities, but many of them.

And how did it ever get to be acceptable that in order to convince me to give money to a charity, that that charity should first give something to me? Classic case: Girl Scout cookies. If you are approached to give to most internet causes, you are asked to decide what GIFT you’d like as part of the deal.  Coffee mug?  T-Shirt? Musical CD?

I understand Robert Cialdini’s finding that reciprocation is a great way to manipulate a potential donor:

Reciprocation. People are more willing to comply with requests (for favors, services, information, concessions, etc.) from those who have provided such things first. For example, according to the American Disabled Veterans organization, mailing out a simple appeal for donations produces an 18% success rate; but, enclosing a small gift–personalized address labels–boosts the success rate to 35%

On the other hand, how refreshing it is (in the rare cases) where you are convinced to give to a charity simply because it seems to be doing a good job, and where there’s nothing in it for you (other than the fact that you are displaying to others that you are a generous person).

Maybe there is no such thing as altruism . . .


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Category: Altruism, Fraud

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (1)

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  1. My father refuses to give money to any "recognized" charity. If they offer something in exchange for the money—pens, cups, what have you—he might. But flat out donations, no way.

    However. Once we were all in a donut shop, waiting to be served, and a youngish man came in looking for work. He had cleaned himself up as best he could, probably using a public facility, but he wore a "strained" look that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has had any dealings with the truly down and out. The clothes were tattered (but clean) and he needed a hair cut (though he had washed it as best he could and slicked it back) and he was clearly underweight. He was polite, quiet, and obviously in need.

    The owner of the shop, just as quietly, turned him down. The young man left.

    My father followed him out. A block or so away, around a corner, where no one could see him, he stopped the young man, gave him cash sufficient to get himself cleaned up better and a couple of meals and spoke to him for several minutes. I heard nothing that was said, but it was obvious the young man was surprised and grateful.

    My father will not talk about it.

    That, to him, is genuine charity, and as far as he's concerned the only kind that matters. The rest is basically there to allow contented people to buy penance for themselves.

    I don't agree with this stance entirely, but I must admit I seldom ever give to established charities for pretty much the same reason. You have no idea for the most part where the money goes or if it does much good when it gets there.

    But to quietly and privately give help to someone you will never know and who will probably never do a thing for you…

    Generosity exists. Altruism may be a farce.

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