Charitable Me

As I’ve written before, I urge everyone to get involved in sound, well-managed and legitimate charities.  It’s not just about the cool name or facially good cause behind the charity, but about where your contributions will actually serve the cause, and serve it well.

There are no shortage of scam charities, and no shortage of fools with money, but even seemingly legitimate charities are often horrendous abusers with good press. Being charitable doesn’t mean throwing your hard-earned money down the toilet, or into some scammer’s pocket.

That said, each of us has the right, if not the responsibility, of deciding what cause matters enough to us to be the object of our largesse. I ended up in an unintended argument last week with a cancer survivor, who put a flyer for a car show in the driver’s seat of my Healey.  I knew the show well, having gone to it the first time it was put on, and having since received hundreds, if not more, flyers, mailers and emails for the event.

The car show was called “cruisin’ for a cure,” and its purpose, according to the brochure, was to raise funds to cure prostate cancer.  Certainly, a very worthy cause. But I didn’t like the show itself and had no plans to go. More importantly, I had already received dozens of flyers this summer for the show and didn’t need any more crap left in my car. And I suggested to the guy passing out the flyers that he need not leave one for me.

“Are you coming to the show,” he asked?

“No, I really don’t like the show.”

“But it’s for charity,” he replied.

“Yes, I know, but I don’t like the show and this isn’t my charity.”

This is where he should have nodded and walked away. He was a cancer survivor. We had spoken before and I know his story. I appreciate his story, and his devotion to his cause. I can respect it. But it’s still his story. Not mine. But he wasn’t done yet.

“You can die of cancer, you know. And when you die of cancer, it will be your own fault for not doing what you could to cure it.”

We went around a couple more times before one of the other guys told him, in rather vulgar terms, to get lost and that no means no. The cancer survivor has pushed others a bit too far as well, and they were tired of him and the garbage he put in our cars. We’re touchy about that.

I have no reason to believe that the money from the show didn’t go toward finding a cure for prostate cancer, or that the charity didn’t waste an inordinate amount of it on wasteful management. If I felt the desire to contribute to the cause, I didn’t need a car show to make me, though it struck me that they spent an awful lot on flyers and mailings. Still, that isn’t a reason to question the efficacy and honesty of the cause.

But it wasn’t my cause.

Each of us should have a cause, something we believe in enough to let go of the money we spend our days earning, or trying to earn. It may be prostate cancer. It may be the opera. It may be starving children or cute puppies. There are no wrong causes when they’re your causes.

But you can’t demand that everyone love your cause because you do.

July happens to be National Fragile X Awareness Month. My cause is Fraxa, the Fragile X research foundation, which is not only a cause that I find exceptionally worthy, but a charity that uses its funds for the purpose intended and manages its affairs with the utmost responsibility. My money goes where it’s meant to go, for the purpose it’s meant to serve.

If you don’t have any cause you feel strongly about, give Fraxa a thought. If it’s not your cup of tea, find one that is. Just make sure that your charitable contributions aren’t wasted and serve the purpose you intend.


6 comments on “Charitable Me

  1. John Barleycorn

    Share it fairly but don’t take any of my time?

    Time, time. More time

    Time time time again


    Park your cash yield some time.

    If you have guilt give more cash.

    Time time time time time time time time time time time time

    Oh yeah CASH

  2. Jerryskids

    Just make sure that your charitable contributions aren’t wasted and serve the purpose you intend.

    You could say the same about your tax dollars.

    There are websites like givewell and charitywatch for keeping an eye on how efficiently and effectively charities spend their money, too bad they don’t rate government agencies.

    1. SHG Post author

      First, this isn’t a post about tax dollars. If you want to draw the analogy, and it’s not a particularly good one, feel free to do it on your own blog. While government waste may be rampant, it also reflects competing values. I disagree with a lot of them. Others disagree with me. There is a big difference between wasteful spending and competing political purposes, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compare charity to government spending.

      Second, websites like Givewell and Charitywatch are useful, but less than adequate, in ascertaining the effective use of donations. Had you clicked on the link to Co-Op in the post, you would have realized their limitations, that they only distinguishes the amount used to pay for the solicitation of charitable donations from the amount that goes to the charity for use, but doesn’t assess the care with which charities put the funds to use internally.

      The Co=Op link was included specifically to avoid the assumption you made that funds not spent on collecting donations are funds spent on the cause. They’re not.

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