It’s a bit weird when you think about it – charities exist to fill needs, like poverty or hunger. Nobody is happy about there being need; least of all the people who work at the charities. They devote entire careers to eliminating it.
The prolonged existence of charitable organizations means that need isn’t going away. Charitable work may be making some improvements, or keeping things from getting worse. But the fact that there’s still a call for it means we still haven’t found solutions to the problems.
This logic may not apply to every charity, but some are (or should be) working hard to make themselves obsolete. The head of my local Big Brothers Big Sisters talks about how her organization was founded decades ago just as a temporary stopgap to support at-risk youth until a more sustainable, permanent solution could be found.
Another example is food banks; created to deal with the short-term fallout of other social issues (like unemployment) that leave people hungry. They were never intended to be permanent. Some people argue that their very existence encourages society to neglect those deeper issues.
So why would we celebrate a charity staying open year after year? There are great people doing great things at charities. Is there a way we can celebrate them and their work without celebrating that their organizations are still needed?
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, instead of celebrating, a charitable organization commemorated their anniversary with regret that it’s still needed? It could be a bit tongue-in-cheek; I don’t think anyone wants to see another weepy guilt fest of a charitable campaign. It could focus on providing information about what’s going on with the issue, something like:
“We regret to announce our 50th anniversary. Apparently, we’re going to need your help to wipe out domestic violence and finally close our doors.”
Even with a little humour injected, I think it might feel a lot more honest and meaningful than the standard balloons-and-success-stories approach.