Charity Fatigue


I am bombarded on social media by charities and charitable pages wanting me to like/share them. I am regularly phoned at home by charities wanting money. I receive begging letters from various organizations in the post, and I receive frequent emails about the same thing. I have volunteers at my door and I have charity people jumping at me with clipboards as I walk from meeting to meeting in town. When I say no, I am met with cool (and sometimes not so cool) frowns of displeasure. Sometimes people mutter under their breath at me. It has happened that I have received a lecture on not being so selfish.

I should state here that I do contribute. I contribute 1% of my income to the Roman Catholic Church, I volunteer at the local cat shelter as well as sponsoring a cage there, I pay for schooling for two children in South Africa, I financially support two wolf sanctuaries, I donate money monthly to Hope for Paws, The Fluffy Pet Foundation, Anti Rhino Poaching and Cancer Research. I buy hygiene products for a local women’s shelter once a month and donate all my unwanted clothes and other items to the local organisation for the homeless. I belong to a political party and I financially contribute there as well. When I die my entire estate is going to the local animal shelter (yes I am one of those!). I do not donate any clothes or household items for charities in Africa because these items are usually sold by local middlemen and form unfair competition to local businesses.

I honestly feel that is enough. If I gave to every single charity that was asking for money I would be so deep in debt it wouldn’t be true. And more and more organisations would be there with their hands out. Each of them expecting more and more. Where does it end? Charities just seem more about big business than anything else these days. Charity shops set ridiculously high prices on things, seemingly wanting to compete with the High Street – in fact in many areas in Britain these days, they ARE the High Street. The people on the other end of the phone seem to be employed or paid commission on donations the way they badger you. If you do give and go onto their list of donors, suddenly you are expected to give more and more and more. Each charity seems totally oblivious to the fact that they are only one of many bombarding each person with requests. As the charities grow bigger and bigger surely the operating costs eat up larger and larger percentages of the donations they receive?

Begging also seems to be on the increase everywhere. Coming from Africa as I do, I am quite hardened against the most pathetic looking people begging. If I am in a position to do so I usually offer people who are begging food instead of money. I sometimes carry sandwiches and spare clothing with me or I offer to buy the person a hot lunch. 95% of the time I am turned down. More than once my proffered food and warm clean clothing have been thrown into the bin in front of me. Other times I have been sworn at.

I just feel that somewhere it has to end. Are there too many charities these days fighting for the same piece of the pie? Have the people who are in need increased? Has the system failed them in a way it did not before? Do people expect the system to help where before the family and the community would have rallied around them? Have the number of diseases, disorders, and worthy causes outgrown the base which has to support them? Or does the explosion of social media mean that the message is everywhere all the time – not just charities but private people needing financial help with their sick pet/child or causes/diseases. Every month there seems to be another ‘Disease of the month’ where there are products and campaigns to support it. Do you know how many ‘ribbons’ (like the ones in the picture above) there are? 48. I often wonder how many of the Pink October products in support of breast cancer actually go to support breast cancer. I cynically believe that most of the companies just put boobs on a cake or make things in pink in October to jump on the bandwagon.

Whatever the reason, I am suffering from charity fatigue. I have no compassion left to give. All I am starting to feel now is increasing bitterness and resentment with each passing call. Is there anyone out there who feels the same or am I just a horrible, horrible person?

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

7 thoughts

  1. You are definitely not a horrible person, the charity business (for let’s be honest, that is what many of them have become) has got out of hand. I now rarely donate to any of the larger charities – sorry, but if they have money to waste on admin, and sending out forms, newsletters and pens all nicely enveloped up for your convenience, sometimes with a batch of pretty postcards too, then they clearly aren’t using the money for what I would expect it to be used for. I totally understand that big charities have a lot of organisational work etc to do to help increase donations etc and to keep themselves in the public eye, but I think that many of them go too far. I’d much rather donate to a smaller cause where you can see the difference it makes,rather than it being swallowed up by admin.

  2. Janet, you are 100% right, and I am totally in agreement with you. One way I donate is by selling my old books to a second hand bookstore and walking two blocks to a women’s shelter and handing the money directly to one of the nuns there. Anonymous, cash, and I trust who I’m dealing with.

  3. Janet, you are giving a lot of charity donations to very worthy causes. Animals are close to your heart as they are to mine. There is a lot of greed in the world these days and the “have nots” think that everyone else is a “have” person. They don’t know us and they don’t care. We may look “rich” to them but that is not always the truth in many ways. The earlier comments sum it up better than I can. You are a good person, Janet Carr 🙂

  4. Young Janet you’re most definitely not a horrible person , caring and compassionate would be words more suited to you .

    Its a sad fact that since the misguided ( in my humble opinion ) concept that you should run a charity like a business was first mentioned , aggressive funding tactics seam to have become accepted ,as a trustee of various UK charities for well over 30 years I find this totally abhorrent 🙁

    Stick to your guns young lady the worlds a better place for you !!!

  5. No , you are not the only person that feels this way ! I, and a lot of my friends do too. I seem to spend a fair portion of every day dealing with chuggers and it has got to the stage where I dread answering my own phone. When I go into town it’s like running an obstacle course to avoid them. I am always polite in my refusal but, like yourself, have been met with disapproval and abuse.If we gave to every charity that asks, we would be charity cases ourselves ! Most charities in the UK are not content with one off donations any more, but require you to commit to a monthly direct debit and then constantly pressure you to increase your
    I’m starting to sound like a right old Scrooge here, but that’s how I feel at the moment !
    I do donate to charity as and when I can afford to and always take unwanted clothing, household goods, books etc to charity shops.
    Janet, you are definitely not a horrible person, and I don’t consider myself to be one either,but enough is enough !

  6. No, you are not a horrible person, in fact quite the opposite. This wouldn’t bother you so much if you didn’t care. The fact you care is making you question your judgments. Stick with what is in your heart. You cannot save the world no more than I can or the next person. You are doing more than your fair share and are probably in danger of doing too much. You are right in saying you have ‘charity fatigue’ and in that I feel for you. It is not that bad here in Australia but as I work in the charity business – I’m an Anglican priest – I don’t get the phone calls though I do get the mail and the door knockers. It is interesting you point out that you offer food instead of money and it is turned down 95% of the time. Same for me. I try ever so hard when someone knocks on my door with a story to tell and I immediately think – how much? One guy recently expected me to hand over $500 to get him out of debt as the debt collector criminal guy was waiting for him when he got home! I trust my instincts and somehow know when someone is genuine. Trust that feeling in yourself and be comfortable knowing you are doing as much as you can. Above all, do not feel guilty that you can’t do any more!!!

  7. You’re definitely not a horrible person! I think charities are suffering because people have less disposable cash in a recession, and they’re also competing against each other. There are also ‘trendy’ charities which people seem to donate to more. I’ve got strict about what I do and don’t donate to. I don’t know if the word ‘chuggers’ translates outside of the UK (charity muggers!), but I won’t donate to any charity which adopts this approach. I don’t give to religious charities and I prefer to give to people ones, if that makes sense. This year I decided to donate to charity rather than sending Christmas cards. I told friends what I was doing and donated to MIND (the mental health charity) and Shelter (the homeless charity). If collectors turn up on my doorstep and question my decision on who to give to, I send them away with a flea in their ear!

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