I’m no Mike Smash

Mike, as Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse fans will recall, did a lot of great work for charity, but didn’t like to talk about it. As the millionth ice bucket challenge appears on Facebook (rapidly followed by the millionth opinion on whether this is a good or bad thing), I find myself having to confront my own rather complex feelings about philanthropy.


                     An ice bucket yesterday

More specifically, I am worried that my visceral reaction to these viral charity stunts is a little uncharitable.

I’m not the only one. In the last couple of weeks, I have heard lots of people groan as another friend appears on Facebook and tips a bucket of water over their head. And lots of the objections to the ice bucket challenge (IBC) have had as much attention as the challenge itself.

But this isn’t about the IBC’s merits: I’m all in favour of people chucking a few quid at a worthy cause. My observation is simply that the proliferation of these requests seems to be in danger of biting the hand that’s feeding it.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I suspect most of us are receiving an increasing number of pleas to support the charitable pursuits of friends and acquaintances. Each request comes with a link to donate, and most of the time I will. But it’s surely obvious that for every IBC that becomes a global phenomenon, there will be an onslaught of similar campaigns as other charities seek the elusive social media gold that sees their coffers overflowing.

The worst part of this is (and I feel terrible even typing this) that I find myself judging the merits of the request according to the relevance of that particular charity to me or the person asking for the cash.

Maybe that’s what we all do: I don’t know. I can’t believe I am alone in creating a private mental checklist that determines the size of my donation. And there are other issues too. Last year I must have had 15 people ask me to support their efforts for Movember. I donated once, but then probably mildly offended 14 other people by ignoring them. Awks!

Anyway, back to the point: it feels like we are approaching the point of diminishing returns. I suspect charities might have to open up a new front to persuade us to stick our hands in our collective pockets. It will be interesting to see how Movember fares this year, as it feels like that particular campaign might have peaked. That doesn’t make testicular cancer any less worthy of public support in 2014, but growing a moustache? That’s so 2012…

Finally – and again, this feels like some sort of confessional – I find the idea of asking people for money makes me extremely uncomfortable, no matter how laudable the cause. I’ve signed up for a charity event in October and the prospect of sending an email requesting donations has made me question whether I can take part. I’m not sure I’d support my cause, so how can I ask for others’ money in good faith?

See what you’ve done, ice bucket challenge? See what you’ve gone and done…?





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