Sponsorship (Part 2)

On a walk to school my daughter proudly announced that some children’s television presenter had finally reached the South Pole.

“Why did she go there?” I asked.

“For charity,” my daughter replied.

“For charity? You mean she was taking some unwanted clothes to a charity shop that stands on the South Pole?”

“No! She was collecting money for charity.”

“But nobody lives at the South Pole, how is she going to collect money from there?”

“No! She’s collecting the money when she gets back.”

“So let me see if I’ve got this right… This woman has spent a lot of money and used up many resources—equipment, fuel etc.—to undertake an essentially useless activity to raise money for charity?”

“It was a very brave thing to do, not everyone could do it.”

“Well, you’re right about that; not everyone could do it because they don’t get offered the opportunity from a television company. Most people have to work. But anyway, my point is this; she has already spent a large sum of money just getting to the South Pole—which is a useless activity, remember—so this money has to be deducted from the money she collects from her sponsors when she gets back, therefore the total is much reduced. But hey, I suppose the television presenter gets a personal buzz from doing something adventurous and it helps her television career no end. Oh, wait a minute, does that mean she is really doing it for herself and not for the people she is supposed to be collecting the money for? Which charity is she supporting, by the way?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmm, that proves my point. You remember the television presenter and the useless activity but not the charity that it is all supposed to be about. Why didn’t she think to do an activity that would actually be of benefit to someone?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, why didn’t she get sponsorship to dig a well in Africa? And to make it ‘dangerous’ and ‘dramatic television’ she could do it by just using her teeth. There, that covers all the angles: it’s got jeopardy; it’s worthwhile; she gets even more famous in her career but more importantly, her activity actually produces something—a well. And the children will remember the stunt as being something about a well in Africa so maybe they’ll make the connection that clean water wells are needed in Africa. And of course, after she’s collected the money for completing this worthwhile stunt, she will have more money to build other wells. Doesn’t that make much more sense?”

“Well…”

“In fact, now that I think about it, the whole set up is a bit suspicious. How do we know that the collected money is going to the people who are supposed to be the recipients? How can we be sure that the money isn’t going to building some fancy new headquarters for some charity administrators? If they so enthusiastically support useless activities for raising funds then they could just as easily support useless activities in the spending of the money. No, I think it is far better to do charity work that is local and that you can see the benefits of…”

“Oh look, there’s Joely! Bye daddy!”

11 Responses to “Sponsorship (Part 2)”

  1. Dan Ladds says:

    Strange, isn’t it? The concept of wasting resources on one front, in order to encourage other people to give money. Of course, it’s not just limited to sponsored events — every time charities advertise, they’re wasting resources, but in the hope that by doing so, they will encourage others to contribute more in return.

    There’s so many different good causes now that each one is pulling out the stops to make sure people donate to theirs. Charity is competing against charity, even in the same field: the British Legion against Help for Heroes, and such. It’s the problem of the commons: the best thing for each charity individually is to use resources persuading people to donate to them instead of a rival, but systemically, that just means that all charities are wasting resources against one another, and the total amount of donations remains the same and costs going up.

    The amount of donations generally remains the same, because people will always donate just enough of their income to give them a warm feeling about themselves. The whole thing is an excercise in self-gratification. It’s the same with sponsorship — even people who think they’re doing something “for charity” are actually doing it for self gratification. That’s why the cost/benefit doesn’t matter to them, because it (running a maraton, walking to the south pole, etc) is purely an excercise in making them feel better about how “good” they are.

    Of course, ultimately, none of this matters, because charities are just band-aids on a broken socioeconomic system. If the system worked, we wouldn’t need charity.

  2. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Thanks Dan. I’d never really scrutinized the significance of charities before but you expose the elephant in the room with your observation that they are, in fact, an indictment of our broken socioeconomic system. Why do we have charities for the homeless? Because we f***ing have homeless people in our society! What does that say about the system?

  3. Claire M says:

    It is the charity “muggers” on the streets that are a particular sore point for me – fresh air and a walk at at lunchtime has turned into running a gauntlet, with cheery people who pretend to be my friend trying to guilt trip me into handing over my bank details for “their” charity. I’m not sure if they are agency staff but there’s an increasing number of them who seem to work for a remrkably large number of charities – same face, different T-shirt. I’ve wondered – but not yet been brave enough to politely enquire – whether it might be more use to the charity for them to waive their wage and donate it to the charity in question rather than harassing people, many of whom may already have arrangements in place with their own charities for regular donations. Grrrr.

  4. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Thanks for visiting, Claire. It would seem that ‘charity’ has become big business just like any other profit seeking commercial enterprise. Hardly surprising really, considering the disconnect people have with money, sharing, fairness and consumerism. Plus, charities have a kind of ‘banker status’ in that no one can criticise them for what they do. This cannot be good for any kind of democracy.

  5. Dan Ladds says:

    People seem to assume that because an organisation is a “charity”, all its money must go to good causes.

    The reality is that while charities aren’t allowed to pay profits to shareholders like regular companies are, that doesn’t stop them paying some staff very highly:

    http://society.guardian.co.uk/salarysurvey/table/0,12406,1042677,00.html

    Of course, charities use the same excuse as the banks: that they need high salaries to attract excellent staff who will save them more money in total. Apparently.

  6. Ivor Tymchak says:

    The charity concept kinda falls down if they trot out the old bankers excuse of ‘high salaries needed to attract the best staff’. Surely,charities are about passion, commitment and social justice? If they pay for any hired gun then what’s the difference between them and big business? None, I tell you.

  7. Ivor,

    I have no worries about how money is raised for charity whether it is for self gratification or not. Charities need funds to deliver services. No donations means no services

    If the person concerned in your example was going to do the trip anyway and wanted to tap into other peoples ‘desires’ to sponsor such an adventure then why not. Charity works best when there are many beneficiaries

    I can see your point that they could just donate and not do the adventure anyway. However that misses the point of human nature. We all have different needs and desires and it is these that will drive people to donate or not.

    I did something recently that helped promote me and helped others to gain new skills at little cost provided they made a donation to charity. Several charities benefited. If I followed your lead and had not ‘promoted’ my charity offer, five charities would not have benefited from me giving my time for free.

    Charity is to be welcomed in all its guises providing it delivers benefits to those the charity claims to support.

    Best wishes,

    Peter

  8. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Thanks for the comment, Peter although I feel you miss the point, somewhat.

    Firstly, we need to question why charities exist at all, why aren’t those services provided by the state? Secondly, a desire to sponsor some crazy scheme (such as might be thought up by the team from ‘Jackass’) loses the connection with the cause of the charity and could lead to all sorts of contradictions (a burger eating contest designed to raise funds for obesity research).

    Your example is perfectly legitimate—offering your services for a charity donation rather than a fee. Everything in it makes sense; no wasted promotion, no emotional blackmail, no conflict of interest. Unfortunately, the world is more complicated (and cynical) than that…

  9. Ivor,

    You ask ‘why should charities exist, this should be provided for by the state’. I think you are aiming for a Utopian solution which could never be.

    Charities exist pure and simply because the state cannot provide for all – let alone does it have the desire or more importantly the ability to do so.

    The old adage Charity begins at home is so true. I believe that to mean that charity is within each of us. What I mean by that is that we want to give to those areas to which we have some emotional ‘connection’. We therefore feel good about giving. Leaving it to the state to divvy up our contributions does not cut it for me.

    I do not want some public servant deciding where my donations go based on who they think is deserving. After all, we have seen what some of our public servants do with public money.

    Let’s just be thankful that some people set up charities and some people find ways to raise funds for said charities to put to good use.

    P

  10. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Peter, to some extent, the state already divvies up our contributions in the form of benefits to those less able to provide for themselves as well as handouts to arms manufacturers who I would rather, they did not support. I take your point though, most charities are supported by people who have had a loved one succumb to the disease that a charity vows to fight etc. Sure, if they want to add extra impetus to the cause then so be it (although I can’t imagine throwing any more money at cancer charities is going to help, there is already an enormous amount of research being done by big pharma in the hope of coming up with a patentable, golden goose of a product!).

    But here’s an interesting proposition for you. Bettakultcha want s to go to Berlin and put on a gig there to help empower people. It’s a good cause. It’s also bold and challenging. Would you like to contribute to the ‘charitable’ work that it does and help fund this project?

  11. [...] they would have been unanimously rejected.  Instead, by going under the banner of “doing it for charity“, anyone who was critical of the idea would appear to be a miser.  Apparently, whether [...]

Leave a Reply