It’s admirable when anybody helps a charity and/or donates money. As long as the charity supports a “good cause”, then it’s worthwhile to help. Fundraising helps them each to gather money from people. But who are the people and how did they choose to donate to any charity in particular? In a prior post, I brought up the point that people tend to support charities that can ultimately help them or their loved ones. I’m guilty of this since I raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society when I rode 100 miles on my bike with the Team In Training organization. I was partially motivated by the fact that my dad had leukemia. It was a great satisfying experience knowing that I was helping to prevent this disease from affecting other families.
Helping charities that could cure a disease is only one type of place to donate money. It is surely a worthy cause, but this help may not ultimately help to develop a cure. It doesn’t help all the people who are sick now. It also doesn’t help people who are starving now. One could argue that the most important charities are the ones that keep people alive right now. Some would rather donate money to keep animals from being destroyed. Once you get past helping humans survive, there are other charities such as those funding the arts, or to pay for a local marching band to travel to a parade. These are important to develop well rounded people but they aren’t necessary to the same degree. Alumni associations are always asking for money from their alum. Education is important for people to fulfill their potential, so funding scholarships helps students attend college is helpful especially as universities become increasingly more expensive. It may seem like it’s only helping kids that aren’t as needy as refugees in Africa, but these students could be ones that eventually cure cancer.
Then there are the cases of where we send goods and money to help people that have gone through catastrophes. These are also worthy but totally random and in nature. Donating to such charities takes money away from other charities that we can donate to. I once explained to a homeless man that I am asked for money by many street guys and I have a finite amount of money. The more I give him means that I can't give o the next person that asks me for money. But then, should I even be giving money to panhandlers who may not truly be needy or may actually be using the money for drugs or alcohol? Should we donate to people who could afford insurance but chose not to buy it and are now bankrupt? Everybody’s answer is different.
Often people like to support local charities to help their own community, but I’ve seen kids that are starving and I would argue that hundreds of millions of more children are hungrier in Africa and Asia than anybody in North America. I believe that helping your own is helping humans regardless of where they live. Even if you pick the charity that’s most worthy in your mind and heart, then you have to wonder if the money is actually going towards helping people and that it’s not being siphoned off by some official.
In the end, it’s probably a good thing that people have differing viewpoints on charities. This way, they all get some money. But I question whether raising money for an alumni association to fund their big-time sports programs is as worthy as helping starving people feed themselves. Decisions on where to donate can be mind-boggling. I guess it all depends on how I feel, how much money I have available, and who approaches me at any given time. These are the things that dictate where my charity money goes. No matter what though, giving feels good and it does good so we need to keep doing it.