Friday, 10 February 2017

Charity collections

Back to an old theme - charities. Grrr. One of modern life's banes. I wish they would all go away.

Yet another plastic envelope has been shoved through my front door - the fourth this week! - asking me to fill up a collection bag inside the envelope with 'good quality clothing and paired shoes, bedding, handbags, belts, soft toys, perfumes, and cosmetics' - I quote from the Leukemia Care envelope. Another one, from Marie Curie Nurses, is less particular and merely asks me for 'unwanted clothing, books, linens and bric-a-brac'.

Neither will get anything. I have nothing that I want to discard. Their envelopes have gone in the bin. As a stream of others before them have.

I'm highly annoyed to be plagued with these much-too-regular demands. It's on par with all the leaflets that come through one's front door, advertising services you don't want.

Presumably they make their approaches quite independently of each other, implying a wasteful division of effort - and unnecessary air pollution in the case of the later van collections.

And it's actually insulting, this assumption that most people are spendthrifts, materialistic air-heads, who rapidly build up a mountain of excess possessions - enough to fill large collection bags over and over and over again.

I certainly do spend money on clothes, but I can't afford to make many ill-judged purchases. So I don't find myself having to throw away a lot of unworn stuff, simply in order to create wardrobe space. There are - indeed there are - people around whose main hobby is spending cash on things they will never wear. And not just clothes. But I am not one of them, and I resent having the 'crass consumer' label fixed on me.

Plus, I dare say, earning a secret sneer from the people who organise these collections. Surely they must see their targets as sad people with a pathological spending problem. So there is an ethical issue here: shark-like collection firms preying on consumer addicts. That's wrong.

Perhaps national statistics 'prove' that Sussex residents in detached houses - with decent cars outside - are overwhelmingly likely to be good sources of posh clobber and other baubles.

And then there's the industrialised nature of the approach - dropping off a bag to fill, telling me when a driver will call to collect it, just as if this were a routine refuse collection. It's a million miles away from my own concept of spontaneous personal charity, giving something to alleviate a pressing need right there in front of my face.

I know; the charities will say that no amount of haphazard impulsive responses by individuals - who just happen to be there at the right time, and who just happen to feel momentarily altruistic - can ever accomplish nearly as much as an organised, continuous effort to raise funds by a body dedicated to the task, and willing to apply all the techniques of persuasion.

So far as effectiveness goes, they are surely right. I suppose my irritations highlight the main problem for people raising cash for good causes - human nature. You have to bombard the better-off for alms, otherwise they will just walk on by. You can't rely on the odd generous impulse.


  1. Time has come to make a big clear out of the house, stuff comes from where! Like you I choose my clothes carefully and the idea that something not worn for a year should go into one of those plastic bags is crazy since it will almost feel like new next year. If I ever really wear something out it becomes gardening wear and after that rags...

    I have made a few trips to the recycling centre / dump, it is always a painful experience. There I am getting rid of stuff which can have no earthly use beyond basic material recycling and then I have to watch people casually throw away perfectly good valuable stuff!

  2. Think positively, Lucy. Those plastic bags make excellent bin liners. Mine go straight into a kitchen drawer with the black refuge sacks.

    Be assured that it is not just the comfortable rich of Sussex who are being targeted. Here in less affluent Lydney I've been known to get 3 in one week! Unsurprisingly, one arrived this morning; this time from "Cancer Research & Genetics UK". Doubtless a worthy cause but, like you, I rarely have cast-offs to cast in their direction.

  3. The days of volunteer-run charities are largely a thing of the past. In an age of executive directors and paid staff, the urgency to generate funds has increased exponentially. Their livelihoods are on the line every day. In short order, no donations means no employment.

  4. I'm sure none of us are mean skinflints, but we are surely sensitive to the type of approach, and will generally resist any element at frank coertion. But unsubtle coertion is what we mostly get. And in all honesty, I can't see how else these collection agencies can raise funds on a grand scale.

    Still, I am not convinced that the executives of the biggest fundraisers deserve vast salaries. In this field, it would be more appropriate if all involved insisted on modest remuneration, as their own charitable contribution.



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