Monday, January 18, 2010


I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but the holidays got in the way. I was shopping with my sister one afternoon early in December, and we hit a number of stores. At nearly every checkout counter, we were asked if we'd like to donate a dollar for one cause or another. Toys for Tots. Childrens Miracle Network. Habitat for Humanity. After the fifth clerk failed to ask us to donate a dollar, I turned to my sister and remarked that this must either be a heartless store, or incredibly understanding of donor fatigue.

Now, I'm not critcizing these establishments. In fact, this was a tactic that I, in my fundraising years, found terribly effective. I get it, but it smacks of "slacktivism". Let's pull out wikipedia:

Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism) is a portmanteau formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is considered a pejorative term that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts also tend to require little personal effort from the slacktivist. Examples of activities labeled as "slacktivist" include signing internet petitions, the wearing of wristbands ("awareness bracelets") with political messages, putting a ribbon magnet on a vehicle or joining a Facebook group.

I understand that donating does make an actual difference. But so does volunteering your time. Again, after the fifth store, I was kind of apathetic to those hungry/homeless/handicapped kids. A dollar here, a dollar there, bada-bing, bada-boom! Problem solved.

It just felt a little too...easy.

Shouldn't one take time to know and understand the issues at play? Why is childhood homeless a problem? Why isn't there enough food? What is happening in these neighborhood's that kids aren't safe to live? Who took all their toys?? Perhaps I'm just a purist. Perhaps I think about things too much (this charge has been levvyed against me before). But throwing money at a problem, signing an online petition, or becoming a "Fan" on facebook, seems - well, sad.

I realize that this may be untenable for most. For those, go ahead; give your dollar - I'm sure it will go towards good. But don't you want to get engaged in the world? Then get some skin in the game. Get active. Be curious. Find a cause and throw your weight into it.

Speaking from experience, personal investment has a higher rate of return than anything else.


Muse for Hire said...

Guilty. Says the girl who always gives a dollar to homeless pets when she buys cat food.

However, having worked the rehab stint, I know what a difference the money makes too. All the man power in the world doesn't feed a critter/kid/family, unless you have mad regenerative capabilities. The funds provide the foundation for the volunteers to have something to do--centers in which to provide time, house the homeless and broken, etc.

I completely agree that it really is, for most, a throw-away feel-good gesture, but if it's the easiest way for orgs to get people to part with their moolah, carry on.

june elizabeth said...

i work at a grocery store. it kills us to ask if you want to donate too.

and i definitely think each individual should research where they're donating. those of us asking for money don't really know where your money is going either.