Monday, August 3, 2015

Dangerous Charity

I still remember that day in Haridwar when my friend made the mistake of giving alms to one beggar. Within seconds, so many beggars had materialized from thin air, around us, that we could hardly move. Why they do it will always be a mystery - I am sure that, thanks to the fact that anyone giving alms is bound to be pestered by everyone seeking alms in the town, people are being warned not to give alms in the place. If the pester level were lower they could well be getting more alms overall. But, then, I suppose that hunger is a thing that focuses you exclusively on short term goals. And, in any case, it is not like they can do a study on which option would yield the most alms in the long run.

What is less understandable is the behavior of NGOs dealing with the needy. In the past, I had given a donation to one of them, with the intention of doing it annually. Six months down the line, I get a call about a special program that they were running and a requirement for some additional donation. Being a shade flush with funds on that occasion, I made the mistake of acceding to that request. That opened the floodgates of the deluge. I get a call again the next month and I said I was unable to help them. For the next week, I ended up getting calls two to three times a day telling me, not in so many words though, about how cruel I was to deny the benefits to the poor children by not sparing my cash.

My heart can bleed as much as the next guy for the plight of poor children but that does not mean that I feel like I have snatched food from their starving mouths. The one thing I hate is being guilt-tripped by anyone. If I give donations, it is because I want to do it and not because I feel guilty. The nobility in giving, according to what I have learnt, lies in feeling grateful for the opportunity to help someone and not in feeling guilt. Someone trying to guilt trip me into doing something arouses my ire. I forthwith told him that I shall never donate a penny to them again and, thereafter, anyone who called citing the name of that NGO was met with so rude a response that they stopped calling me. Persistent blokes, though! It took me a year of incessant rudeness before I got them off my back.

The damage was done, though. I seem to have, apparently, been included in the list of likely donors in some master database used by all NGOs. Calls kept coming in from others and, scarred by that experience, I kept refusing. They may not have got a donation from me but they ensured that I donated liberally to Airtel, since I travel out of town very frequently and they never stopped calling even when I was 'roaming'. (There is another mystery. How is it that promotional SMSes from Service providers turn to promotional phone calls when you are 'roaming', but that is another issue.)

It is not like I do not want to be charitable. The problem, though, is that I do not want to turn the 3-4 calls a week from NGOs to twenty calls a day merely because I donated to one of them. (DND? I am registered but it hardly seems to help) Call me self-centered, if you will, but that is the way it is. If there is some way to ensure that I can do the one without being afflicted by the other, then I can restart charity to NGOs. Else, I shall have to restrict myself to what I do - helping those around me.

I may or may not want to be considered benevolent but I am sure that I do not want to be considered prey.

20 comments:

  1. Oh that's terrible. I too would be so put off by such persistent calling. My standard reply to such donation-seekers has always been that I never donate anything to organisations that call for donations and that I select my own charities which I want to support, so they better stop calling me.

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    1. Yes, Beloo! I just wanted to put across the fact that this is counter-productive

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  2. I do hope these rabid 'do gooders' realize that they are ultimately harming their own cause by their rude persistence. They have no business guilt tripping anybody, period. I admit that there genuine service minded people in some of these NGOs and that they do provide a framework for citizens to do charity, but they have to realize that emotional blackmail, arm twisting, and guilt tripping will do more harm than benefit. If a donor asks them to stop, they should immediately do so, and this in itself will help them in the long run.

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  3. You've raised a very relevant point. People simply don't try to understand the psychology of the giver and show no consideration whatsoever.

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    1. True - also it is not like I am Mukesh Ambani and I can keep distributing largesse to everyone :) There are limits to how much I can spare

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  4. do not give a single penny to any NGOs unless you know where they are spending the money. i spoke to one of the NGO guys recently and he told me that they get to keep 80% of the govt aids and they spend only 20%.

    I have a budget of 10 rs for each beggar in my area and they come in the evening and collect it like a sahara agent. once i told one small girl that i only had 500 rupee notes and she nonchalantly gave me 490 rupees.

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    1. Yes - that, too! I don't even know how genuine most of my callers are.

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  5. We only give to Helage but thankfully,they only send mail.
    However it is very difficult to hit upon a genuine donee.My husband keeps aside a fair amount for charity but we have been unable to find a deserving person.So we asked our doctor to contact us if a poor patient needed help but he also came back only once for a heart patient.What to do?

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    1. Yeah, Indu! Being generous does seem to make us seem like targets to some

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  6. putting someone on a guilt trip is simply not done. I hardly ever make a cash donation, instead it is always a donation of second hand, but neat and clean children's clothes, pencils, second hand toys, water bottles, etc that we collect from our group and distribute to the children's home that we frequent. and on other days, it is just voluntary work involving the kids in storytelling or drawing etc..no cash.

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  7. My pet peeve too. I support many causes and give donations. Like you I do it to help someone. But their incessant bombarding you with emails and calls turns you cynical. These days, I only contribute to the causes I contribute to. As far as others are concerned, I don't even have the patience to hear them out. I just slam the phone down.

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  8. Once reprimanded a perfectly hale and hearty young woman at a traffic signal point for shamelessly begging. I offered her work which she quickly refused saying this is how their community worked. One has to be extremely careful here in whom you help. And please don't get brow beaten by anyone. It's perfectly alright.

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    1. The one sure way to get me to refuse anything is to give me the impression that I am being browbeaten :)

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  9. Agree with all the sentiments expressed in this post

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