If anything seems clear-cut, it is that charity is a good thing.  Presumably it does something to improve the human condition, and it makes us feel good.  But, like almost anything, a closer examination reveals it isn’t as simple or pure as that.  Terrorist organizations use their charitable efforts in the community to recruit suicide bombers. Many charitable organizations spend more of the money they receive on empire building and paying themselves sumptuous salaries than ever actually gets out there to the intended recipients.  Celebrities polish their image by their very publicized and often dubious charitable donations—which they can easily afford.  Politicians and robber barons buy getting their names attached to public institutions with their ‘charity’.  But then how many of us refuse that little poppy sticker, that public label of our generosity and patriotism, after tossing a few coins in that old guy’s collection box outside the liquor store?

“Then stop fucking clapping!” (…yourself on the back.) About the rise of the celebrity ‘humanitarians’.

“…attempts were made to immortalize him by placing the museum in his name, Rosenwald refused.” About a great humanitarian whose name should not have been largely forgotten, despite his own reticience.

A website about which charitable organizations are open about how their money is spent and which ones actually funnel most of their donations to the intended recipients.

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2 Responses to 2011-09-16—CHARITY IS PROBLEMATIC

  1. anne says:

    Thank you Man Friday for this reflection on celebrity humanitarians and corporate cause marketing. Let’s not leave out the ‘pink washing’, that annual inundation of advertising each September and October, all in the name of raising awareness about breast cancer. I think it is safe to say that most North Americans, especially women, are aware of this disease and I cannot imagine that anyone does not support efforts to find a cure. However the fund raising campaigns are really about product and corporate branding while a very small percentage of the money raised across North America by well-meaning volunteers actually goes to medical research, breast health information or prevention programs. Awareness is not same as real information. This is a particularly timely issue given the release of the National Film Board film Pink Ribbons Inc., a documentary about the pink movement, fund raising and corporate cause. The film is based on the book by Samantha King, a Queen’s University professor, who looked at the history of ‘the cause’. The film was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival this past week. Check out the link below:


  2. Ian says:

    Apparently the Rotary Club is one that attempts to maximize donations. Members are charged “dues” that help carry the cost of local clubs, materials, and so forth while donations for specific causes are used toward those causes. However, ticket books and poster printing has to be done and all of this has a cost. I suppose it costs money to seek out donation money.