The doubtless well-intentioned people at SearchWell.com and ShopWell.com urge us to spread the word that people can “Give Without Giving” during these times of economic hardship. Merely by using their search engine or shopping from their stable of merchants, one can trigger gifts to the charity of one’s choice. Tiny gifts, to be sure–a penny for each transaction–but, hey, it adds up, right?
The Nonprofiteer proposes instead that people “Shop Without Shopping.” Every time you start to walk into a Starbuck’s, stop and transfer that $2.00 to another pocket instead. If you do this weekdays for a year, you’ll have $500 to donate to the charity of your choice. Even if you merely cut down to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday Starbuck’s schedule, at the end of the year you’ll have an extra $200 available for charity. (Not to pick on Starbuck’s in particular: do the same thing before you walk into a Manolo Blahnik outlet and you’ll have $200 instantly. For some people it’s easier to give up the big things; for others, the small. Your choice.)
You say your own budget is pinched? That you’re already giving up your fancy coffee or imported chocolate or hard-to-pronounce beer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just to make sure there’s enough for groceries and gas all week? Well, then, you’ve got an inkling of how actual poor people feel–which should make it easier for you to give up that same item on Tuesdays and Thursdays for their benefit. What better way to demonstrate that we’re all in this together?
We were justly appalled after 9/11 when the only thing George Bush could suggest to people who wanted to help their country was “Go shopping.” We should be equally appalled by the notion that today–with an assault on our way of life (in the form of a collapsing economy) that’s just as serious, though slower-moving–shopping is still the only thing we’re being asked to do.
Those of us who run charities should treat our donors and prospective donors not like children who need to be tricked with stories about the Tooth Fairy and getting something for nothing, but like the adults they are–which includes being prepared to make some sacrifice, however small, for the greater good.