No shortage of worthy causes


RAISING FUNDS for some advocacy, including personal needs, makes a simple proposition: the wealthy, or even just well-to-do, should feel remorse if they refuse to help the needy. In a material world where money or influence is only given in exchange for desired goods and services, the proposition of getting without giving back something in return rests on spiritual values.

Buddhist monks show detachment from the world by owning nothing and begging for their daily needs as a form of humility and trust in human kindness. Other religions too, including Christianity, confirm this dependence on spiritual prodding with a second collection specifically intended for a special project of the community. Certain sects promote “tithing” or setting aside a tenth of one’s income for the community.

Creativity is employed in fund-raising to make the donor feel sufficiently recognized for his generosity. Depending on the amount given, the donor’s name can be assigned to a whole building, a hallway, or to lower-profiled items. (This blackboard for one classroom was made possible by the paltry donation of Uncle Scrooge.)

Because it is the same list of donors that is targeted for endowments, companies have put up foundations to focus on certain advocacies like promotion of the arts or college scholarships for the needy. These foundations make the philanthropic arena more orderly and run like a corporation with their own mission statements and financial goals.

Fund-raising does not always employ a groveling approach. Chairs of committees for soliciting funds are expected to be the prime givers. Their designation is premised on their ability to invite their peers to follow their lead and join in the giving.

The unequal exchange of something for nothing is promoted as a chic thing to do. “Nothing,” in this case, refers not to absence of gain but the acquisition (at least, temporarily until the next event) of a powerful friend, inclined to remember one’s generosity in a fund-raising effort.

Concerts, art auctions, dinners, or high-profile funerals (instead of flowers please give a sum 20 times the cost of a spray of daisies to the deceased’s favorite cause) and celebrity weddings (for exclusive rights to film inside the church) transform fund-raising into a glitzy undertaking. Event planners handle the table assignments, based on the generosity of the contribution.

Small companies that have neither the need nor the budget for philanthropy employ the old-fashioned approach of “passing the hat.” Thus, farewell parties, hospital expenses of employees and their relatives, and even birthday celebrations are funded by executives and employees. The plain bond paper lists down the donors and their contribution. Some prefer to be anonymous. (Who gave the P20 coin?)

Does the patronage culture in politics promote fund-raising? The political process, even in a barangay election, obliges a candidate to dole out money for the voters’ hospital emergencies, funerals, and drinks to gain support. In politics, handouts are a reciprocal process, a disguised form of vote-buying.

How do you classify the informal taxation of small businesses by agents of the mayor, local police, military, and armed gangs if not a more aggressive form of collecting something for nothing? Unlike Buddhists that use begging as a form of spiritual cleansing, the extortion of small businesses is a coercive form of extracting donations.

Our “beggars” don’t wear saffron robes, live a life of deprivation, and hold out begging bowls for their daily meals as a form of prayer. They simply text targets with their bank account numbers and expect to be credited instantly. Everything is now online.

While giving in to extortion does not qualify as a corporal act of mercy, it does keep a small business from shutting down, even if it is not certain where the contribution goes, or if the business can keep it up indefinitely. It’s all part of the underground economy.

Sociologists see the overload of solicitations on the very few as inviting “donor fatigue.” The compassion factor wears off, and the expectation of donations leads to a case of entitlement from the needy. The disappointment from leaving empty-handed leads to an indictment of the stingy donor. The onus of guilt lies on the head of the unwilling donor.

Giving is best done when the solicitation is not coercive. Certainly, it is still better to give than to receive… depending on the amount and frequency.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda