Charities are great.
Personally, or should that read, ‘selfishly’, I am particularly fond of the cancer ones. Macmillan, Cancer Research, Myeloma UK and the rebooted Bloodwise (once known as Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research), have all contributed in some way to my treatment and all round, general well-being. You should all love them and donate your disposable income to them for that reason alone. I am, however, pretty sure that as special as I think I am, I am not an isolated case when it comes to the positive impact these charities can have. I regularly find myself torn as to which one deserves the most EJ love… Bring other charities into the giving equation and I am stumped.
A charity, by definition is an organisation designed to help and raise money for those in need. Walk down any high street, sit on any mode of public transport, watch television the old fashioned way or simply look at any type of social media, and you will see that there are a lot of people out there in need. A lot of people. I don’t want to shock you, but there are many bad things in this world. ‘Bad Things’ is the official term, I have spent weeks work shopping, to cover all the horrific, life changing and slightly irritating things that could ever possibly happen to a living thing.
If all the shopping centres, buses, adverts featuring music by Kate Bush and a phone number, door knockers and status updates are true, there exists a charity for almost all the Bad Things that can and do happen everyday. Illness, death, poverty, war, famine, the environment, dogs, cats, dogs and cats.
The list is endless and can appear, relentless or at the very least, saturated.
It’s a common scene, when a person cannot make it down a street without being pestered by a person donning a brightly coloured anorak and a fake smile, rattling a money box or dangly a clipboard in your face. As it is now a mere 80 days until Christmas, we are in peak charity (over)drive. It’s the blitz. Everybody, everything, even those dogs and cats, need more money.
On the other hand in my pocket, the fact that so many charities do exist, is moving. It is reassuring to know that there are many people in this fair land, unlike me, who care about other beings enough to invest their time and money to the betterment of others. The Bad Things are being tackled by Good Things. I tried to find out how many charities there are in the UK, and I stopped when I read there were over 16,000. 16,000? Many, many Bad Things. This is an aside, but I was surprised to learn that cancer charities only accounted for two of the top ten highest earning charities in the UK.
I have reasoned, whilst starting this new paragraph, that it is not as simple as Good (the charities) verses Bad (the bad things). Charities must have to compete with each other. If charity really goes begin at home people, then how on earth do people decide which individual charities to donate their hard earned, and limited cash to? Maybe people don’t think, and they donate as and when they feel backed into a corner; I know that is what I used to do.
It’s not just a question of cash either, charities need investment in time, knowledge and understanding. It could be a result of my constant drugged out haze, but I cannot begin to fathom how charities find a voice loud enough to be able to endure, when there are so many charities to choose from, who are equally and unequally vying for your attention.
My charitable attention is selfishly directed to illness, and a certain illness at that. I would think you a fool if you could not deduce the illness of which I speak. I do not know how able bodied and able minded people decide. In my pre cancer world, I would donate out of guilt, empathy, a good advertising campaign, office related sponsorship or various combinations of the above. With 16,00 charities in the UK alone, it makes for an extremely competitive in the Third Sector. Sorry, I meant cutthroat.
In the last few years, maybe because I am more sensitive to campaigns, I have seen charities become more inventive when it comes to fundraising. The Ice Bucket challenge, Coffee mornings, make up free selfies, awareness days, Movember, girls’ nights in; it seems charities have to think outside of the box to garner attention and take in the big bucks. Charities are a business and just as in business, despite the noble origins, it appears to me, a dog-eat-dog world.
Last year, when people were scrambling to poor ice over their heads for ALS, I remember reading various comments online that said it was unfair that the charity was getting so much attention and money, when there were so many other, needier charities to donate to. To clarify, I am paraphrasing other people’s thoughts and these are not my own (Mamma Jones asked me to do that, in case people misconstrue my intentions). Anyway, at the time, when I read these commentaries, I did not see why it had to be an ‘either/or’ situation. Those comments felt like cause shaming, or playground antics, squabbling over what is the worst (and thus the best) ailment.
Yesterday, I saw an example of this (at least that is how my sensitive soul read it) on the book they call Face. I read a status update, the kind of copy and paste job that people are challenged to post in the hope that it goes viral. The cause may be worthy, but I deemed the technique they used to spread their message as insensitive, flawed and ignorant. The update read:
‘October is Infant/Pregnancy Loss and SIDS awareness month! Let’s take some time to remember….[I have edited the middle]… Make this your status if you or somebody you know has lost a baby. The majority of you won’t do it, because unlike cancer, baby loss is still a taboo subject. Break the silence. In memory of all lost.’
Call me opinionated, but I think it is unacceptable to pit one horrific and life changing thing against another, wholly unconnected, horrific and life changing thing in order to gain awareness. I cannot begin to comprehend what it is like for a person to lose their baby. It is indeed something in need of discussion and awareness, especially when it comes to how the NHS cares for the parents who have had to endure such a loss. But, whoever originated the above campaign, in my mind at least, lost their credibility, the moment they typed ‘cancer’. The two are not comparable. End of discussion.*
Do people perceive cancer to hog too much of the public sympathy, and thus too much of the limelight? Cancer may well recieve more publicity and support in comparison to other ‘Bad Things’, but it does not mean it is incorrect to publicise or care about it. Cancer charities only accounted for two of the ten highest earning charities in the UK last year, and yet I understand that it can at times, seem like it is prioritised or sits on an indescribable pedestal. But, I wake up everyday and think ‘cancer’, so I am biased. A friend once argued with me because they believed cancer gained more sympathy than mental illness. It’s the sort of attitude that creates some sort of artificial hierarchy, where there does not need to be one. Nay, there should not be one.
Causes should be judged on their own and stand alone. Charity should be about giving not chastising, and yet the latter will always exist. Of course, we cannot individually give to all charities, but they should be able to exist side by side… Charities are about helping people after all.
And so, in the run up to the festive season when you can see nothing but a rainbow of coloured anoraks and you are bombarded with donation requests, please don’t get angry. The answer is easy, just give to who you want to give to and say ‘no’ to the others. It’s simple maths.
As for the statement that cancer is no longer a ‘taboo’ subject; that is another, lengthy, blog entirely…. Until then, I will simply say that my personal experience would contradict this. Strongly contradict it.
P.S. This is not foray into the complex world of giving, I was opinionated in 2013 too. https://ejbones.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/the-charity-drives/
* I am aware of the irony that, that was not the end of my discussion.