Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Ice Cold Charity
You are probably aware of the current Ice Bucket challenge craze: a charity fundraising drive for ALS or Motor Neurone disease which has swept the nation this summer. Nominees film themselves having a bucket of iced water thrown over their heads, post the video on Facebook and then donate to the charity. Or don't in some cases. My daughter completed her challenge in Brittany last week, nominated by the friend who went on holiday with us; her cousins in Ireland have done it and various otherwise sane adults of my acquaintance have also posted their videos on my Facebook page. I haven't bothered to play them.
You may sense my cynicism about all this. It's not that I object to fundraising, it's just that I dislike the tactics used by some charities. They are 'competing' for a finite amount of money - the amount of a family's disposable income that they are willing to give to charity And why should this charity receive a bigger share because they have come up with something which appeals to our 'selfie' obsessed society? The Cancer Research 'no make-up' Facebook selfie was similar. No doubt there are charities around the country meeting in attempts to come up with the next craze. The adult version of 'loom bands' perhaps.
Charity fundraising is an emotive issue and people usually donate or raise funds themselves to charities which mean something to them. A number of my friends raise funds for cancer charities because of their personal experiences. And when my husband rode from London to Paris he fundraised for the Alzheimer's Society because his mother had suffered dementia in her final years. There's nothing wrong with this, yet I suppose it highlights the fact that there is a element of charitable giving which is about making ourselves feel better.
When my daughter was younger I worried that she was rather spoilt: as an only child with lots of relatives the stack of toys and presents at Christmas and birthdays was immense. So I decided to join one of those schemes where you sponsor a child in a developing country- pay an amount every month and you help a named child, getting updates on her progress etc. Our child was Awa Ba from a rural part of Senegal: we received photographs of her, letters from the person who worked with her and the occasional drawing from Awa herself. My motivation for doing this was twofold - Kate would learn that not all children were as lucky as her and I would be helping another child rather than spending more of my income on my own. I succeeded to some extent though, believe it or not, Kate aged 8 actually envied Awa because her ears were pierced, something I had forbidden until secondary school. But then my working hours were cut and I had less money to spare so when the project in Senegal ended we decided not to sponsor another child, giving a smaller regular amount instead. I feel a bit guilty about this - there are plenty of things I could do without and still sponsor a child. But child sponsorship is, in fact, really another gimmick. The money given doesn't go directly to the child, but to the project and all the costs admin, photographs and postage associated with the sponsorship programme will reduce the funds available for the community
Kate has not made her Ice Bucket donation yet. I am insisting that she does. However I want her to make an informed decision about which charity she wants to support rather than automatically giving to the ALS.