Why the Edmonton Do Gooder Project and Charity Don’t Mix
Not long ago, I was chatting with a naturopathic doctor with a dilemma. People come to her with symptoms of illness, and when the symptoms go away, they do, too. This woman, despite the fact that she has plenty of business, spends all her time trying to figure out how to get people to let her partner with them in the more holistic, lifelong way she believes in.
At some point, she asked me what I do. Upon hearing that I write and speak about giving and making a difference, a guilty look crossed her face. She said,
“Oh, yeah…I really should be giving more to charity.”
This floored me. Here she was, living the good she wants to see in the world, giving her all to the one change she’s probably better equipped to create than any other, and she feels guilty because she doesn’t also give to charity? Ouch. What a shame. But sadly, not uncommon.
Charity: One Piece of a Bigger Puzzle
Charity is, I believe, a valuable piece of our social fabric. There will always be something that’s not right, that falls through the cracks. We will always need generous people and hardworking charities to catch those things, to address the problems that are not being solved any other way. But it’s not the only way to good, and it’s not the best path to every desirable outcome.
Charity is, by its very nature, not self-sufficient. It requires an unending flow of donations to operate. The more we rely on it to solve problems and relieve suffering, the more donations and fundraising are required. Many of us are getting pretty tired of being asked for money. The size of the non-profit sector in Canada (6.8% of GDP, bigger than retail, including over 85,000 charities) is staggering.
I don’t think the problem is that the charities are doing anything wrong. I think the problem is that we expect far too much of them. Often, when it comes to creating social good, we turn to them first.
One of the main goals of the Edmonton Do Gooder Project is to highlight and celebrate people who are working to make other parts of society – business, government, families, communities, etc. – work better, so that we have less need for charities; people who have found ways to solve problems and leverage opportunities that don’t involve fundraising. I believe people should feel good about the positive change they’re working on, however they’re going about it, and never feel guilty just because it doesn’t happen to involve a charity.
There is one thing that I want to be absolutely clear about: In no way am I anti-charity!!! I recognize that there are many amazing people doing amazing things within the charitable sector (many of them friends and former co-workers of mine), and I would never wish to diminish that AT ALL. But for this particular initiative, the goal is to explore paths to good outside the charitable mould.
Thank you, and keep participating!