How to Not Give to Charity or The Homeless

Please sir, I want some more. 


On Charities:

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably felt some kind of guilt for not shaking that hand extended to you by that cheerful Greenpeace advocate standing outside of Whole Foods. Well let me tell you something, don’t feel guilty, my friend! You’ve done nothing wrong.

Even though I wholeheartedly agree with most of the causes these organizations champion, something happened that made me question their ethics. Walking on the street during lunch hour, a guy stopped me to ask for directions. He said he was not from around here and was little bit lost. I took my headphones off, ready to point to Broadway or wherever the subway was.

But this dude didn’t ask for directions. He asked instead, where he could find a smile. After pausing and saying huh to myself, I got that it was joke, and so I did smile. That bastard knew he had me. He then switched full gear into talking about the services provided by the Humane Society. He talked for about five minutes, and during that time, I couldn’t help but be annoyed—at him for taking up so much time (I needed to get back to work), and at myself for being tricked into a donation pitch.

And that is the real problem. Even though asking for a smile is cute and innocent enough, it is still a trick. Their strategy to get their mission out to the public is essentially a bait and switch. These tactics are usually reserved for snake-oil salesman, not for organizations trying to make a difference.

I then told him I’m not giving any donations. He got angry and said “Oh, you’re not for animal rights? You want these dogs to suffer?” Really? Now you’re going to guilt trip me? I’m for your cause, I’m just not for your guilt trips and bait and switch tactics. I know these techniques undoubtedly work or they wouldn’t keep doing it, but they should know that it breeds resentment to that people that do give.

I support donating for great causes and volunteering and doing great things for the community, the world needs it more than ever, but we should also be able to say no without being made to feel like we’re assholes. Don’t ever be sorry if you don’t want to shake their hand.

On the Homeless:

People cite all kinds of reasons to not give money to the homeless. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard that it will only perpetuate their situation by making them dependent on strangers. That we shouldn’t give money to them as it will only be wasted on drugs and alcohol. That it’s better to give to a homeless charity instead because they can take care of their needs better. That the homeless are choosing to be homeless which makes them lazy and therefore not deserving of our money or help.

I go by a different, more honest reason when I don’t give to the homeless: because I don’t want to. Now you might think that it’s completely selfish, and maybe it is, but at least it doesn’t make broad sweeping generalizations about an individual in front of me that I really know nothing about. Sure, it might turn out that they could of chosen to be homeless, or that they’re addicted to drugs, or that they’re just all around terrible people. But I don’t know that and, unless you sit and talk with them, neither do you.

If you don’t want to give, then own it: say it’s because you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with not giving. But there is something wrong with dehumanizing an entire group of people who are already suffering as a way to inoculate yourself from feeling guilty. Fuck that.


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