It’s that time of the year again when I sit down in front of the telly and cry for an evening. This is not because of Southampton’s poor start to the season, before anyone comments, but because of Children in Need. The effect that giving to charity has, and watching others give to charity, is incredibly motivational and inspirational.
Children in Need has been an annual part of my life in one way or another for as long as I can remember. It’s in it’s 32nd year this year and I’ve tuned in to watch most of those live. It has now become incredibly personal to me because my family actually benefit in some way from the charity due to my disabled daughter. It’s gradually grown in profile and reach during this time with last years overall total making £46 million. But is this kind of open giving to charity a good thing or not? Should it not be proper to act anonymous in your efforts to help others?
I’ve cringed in the past when I’ve watched a celebrity offer an exorbitant amount of money to ‘help someone out’. Their motive for being so generous is perhaps just a PR exercise and instead of focussing on the good the money will do, regardless of the motive, we judge the giver instead. As if the money that is donated is any less valuable because the person told everyone that they were doing it.
Is it right to tell people what you’ve given?
People are often secretive with how much they’ve given, if at all, and this comes from an unavoidable sense of guilt that you could have done more. This is unavoidable to a certain degree, and the individual will always feel a sense of judgement when they make their donation public, but what about the effect it has on people that haven’t given.
I raise money occasionally for charities that have helped my daughter and I know the impact that public donations have. When people that haven’t given can see the amounts that have been donated you create an unofficially expected amount. The knock on effect that this has is that the remaining donations tend to average out at this expected donation level. It’s almost like saying, ‘if you donate the same as everyone else then you definitely won’t feel guilty.’
This is crazy because any amount given to charity is incredible. It is totally relative to the donator and how much they think they can afford to give, how much they value the charity, what sort of a month it’s been etc. But it’s interesting how the perception of an average donation tends to play out every time.
When you watch someone give an impressive amount of money away for no return, it has two effects. Firstly, it makes you form, usually a positive, opinion of that person, and secondly, it makes you feel good that there are good people in the world. This in turn motivates you to give as well. The big givers have a role to play in society and charities like Children in Need rely on the celebrity endorsement to build the motivation and inspiration to join in.
Once you have then given, as the quote says at the top, you gain a small amount of well-being yourself. A little feel-good factor that tells you that you’ve done the right thing, and everyone likes that don’t they? An anonymous philanthropist that spends his life making things happen behind the scenes is a wonderful person, but how much more of an impact would they have if they told people about their good deeds?
I don’t suppose it matters how someone gives to people who need it, the important thing in a society that looks after each other is that it happens by any means, but the inspirational effect of open charity can make the intangible value of your donation go a lot further.