on wednesday, a friend of mine updated her facebook status with a note about how she'd donated to the haiti relief effort via oxfam. this friend worked in the nonprofit world for quite a while (and oxfam gets an A- from the american institute of philanthropy, a charity rating group), so i figured i'd follow suit. i gave what we could afford, updated my status with the same blurb, and moved on.

then the twitter updates about mobile donations started whizzing about: texting YELE to 501501 would donate $5 via wyclef jean's yele haiti, HAITI to 90999 sent $10 to the red cross,* and so on.

by yesterday morning i was getting haiti mail from...design within reach (per "help within reach," they'll be matching up to $25K in donations to unicef) and heath ceramics (from 1/15-1/17, they'll be donating 25% of sales to architecture for humanity's reconstruction efforts).*** today at whole foods, a bored-sounding guy announced over the public address system that we should all consider making donations as we checked out.

the viral elements of the charitable response to the situation in haiti are heartening. we can encourage one another to pitch in without the flecks of opportunism, though, right? bearing in mind that i'm probably a horrible person for saying so, picking commerce out of my charity alienates the bejesus out of me.

*i'm not entirely sure everyone knew right off the bat that the donations would be added to their mobile bills and weren't, say, the cellular equivalent of painless giving on sites like freerice.com, but accidental donations spend the same (and the process had been made clearer in the past few days), so i say no harm, no foul.**

**aside from the whole funds-not-getting-to-the-red-cross-for-ninety-days part, that is.

***"We’d love your business to support this cause; visit our store(s), shop online (free shipping through Sunday) or donate directly to AFH."


kidchamp said...

...and then there's yele's super-sketchy accounting. c'mon, guys.

Rachel (heart of light) said...

For some reason I HATE it when they ask me if I'd like to donate money at the grocery store checkout. I'm sure it's a great way to get people who don't regularly donate to pitch in, but it drives me nuts. Because I feel like an asshole when I have to tell the checker that I don't want to donate $1 to (insert charity of grocery store's choice) because it makes me feel so cheap and heartless. And I feel a fleeting compulsion to explain that I prefer to choose my charities carefully and then make donations accordingly, rather than bleeding out bits of money here and there. But I restrain myself because I don't need to explain. I'll actually avoid going to chains that do this because the whole situation makes me feel so awkward.
Obviously, I'm shy and I spend way too much time overthinking things.
But I agree with you - every bit helps and it's nice of companies to pitch in part of their profits, but I'd prefer that they make some sort of flat donation and just state that they're supporting the cause if they feel they need to publicize it. I don't want to contribute to a charity fund indirectly by shopping, when I can just contribute directly.

kidchamp said...

yes, rachel - i can't tell you how i long for a succinct, sincere, updated version of "i gave at work," because, well, i did.

tom said...

I wouldn't be too worried about the 90 day lag time on the money to the Red Cross. They can funnel money that they have now and pick it up later. And, of course, this is not going to be a two-week cleanup deal -- the money will get used.

Though I will say that there is some *vicious* hatred for the Red Cross in some quarters for their admin costs.

Amanda said...

Succinct and sincere and without explanation: "Not today."