Margaret Thatcher as a Charity

Last Friday, I went to see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady – a role for which she ended up winning a well-deserved Oscar.

The life of this iconic figure (Thatcher, not Streep) brings up an interesting point about charity. For her, ambition always came first. She felt she had a duty to do something with her life beyond marriage and motherhood, and she made her choices accordingly. She expected her family to understand. She had important work to do, and seems to have taken it for granted that they would quietly take a back seat and act as a support system.

The parallel with charity is that maybe sometimes, charitable organizations act like Thatcher. They have important causes to champion, vital work to do. They need support and resources – from people like us. Their donors, their volunteers.

But do they sometimes treat us as Thatcher appears to have treated her family – expecting us to put up with a certain amount of neglect and bad treatment in the interest of the greater good?

When charities respond to gifts with requests for more, bombard supporters with highly emotional and urgent requests, fail to give meaningful feedback about what our giving is accomplishing, or don’t consider how we’d like to be treated – is that the equivalent of Margaret Thatcher’s expectation that her family be by her side for photo shoots and speeches, and selflessly keep the home fires burning while she was out crusading for what she believed in?

And if so – are we ok with that? Is it ok that our interests be sacrificed in pursuit of the greater good? Or does it eventually harm the greater good by undermining the support system that’s so vital to it? Should we suck it up and take one for the team, or should we insist on being considered more?

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