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Giving is a personal choice… so please back off

Working on Third Sector means that I talk about charities outside work much more than I ever did previously.

As a consequence, I’ve been on the receiving end of a little hostility, the level of which has surprised me.

You see, I have the gall to donate to animal charities.

It seems, from some people’s reactions, that giving money to organisations that help our four legged friends, is considered worse than not donating to any charities at all.

‘How could you’, ‘what a waste of money’, and ‘think of all the people you could help’, have been some of the reactions I’ve encountered.

After one person’s particularly vociferous reaction I even felt the need to reply: ‘But I support human charities too’ – but apparently it wasn’t enough. The fact I adopted a donkey has irreparably lowered me in that person’s estimations.

It got me to thinking…why do we think we have the right to dictate who someone else gives their money to? In almost every case, I’d imagine it comes down to a personal link to a particular cause area that prompts someone to donate regularly . And I appreciate that some people may be particularly moved by a particular charity and want to enlist as many supporters as possible, but we need to respect people’s right to choose their own cause.

When I find out a friend, colleague or acquaintance regularly donates to a charity, I’m immediately impressed. I’m not bothered what cause has prompted them to give away their hard-earned money because it doesn’t matter, and want to applaud them for doing what so many people don’t.

Maybe others are donating in silence, because they’re too worried about being judged for their choice of recipient. I’ve certainly been made to think twice about admitting to supporting certain animal charities. Or they’ve been berated before for choosing the ‘wrong’ cause, and haven’t done it again. But I think it’s time we appreciate that giving is a personal choice, and in these hard times any and all donations should be being celebrated.

  • Adrian Barrott

    As someone who donates on a regular basis to both animal and human charities, I endorse Gemma’s view that giving is a personal choice and we should respect that. Surely the choice is simply whether to give or nor to give (and not between humans and animals). Certainly in the times we find ourselves in, all charitable donations should be encouraged and celebrated.

  • Joe Freeman

    Well written piece. I personally choose not to donate to animal charities, but that doesn’t give me – or anyone else – the right to dictate where someone gives their hard earned cash. Giving to charity is a personal choice, brought about by personal experiences or interests, so who is to say whether giving to one organisation over another is right or wrong? I can’t think what I’d say to someone who criticised me for my choice of charity when it comes to donating…

  • David Floyd

    I don’t accept that someone giving some money to a cause they support should, in itself, be something for other people to celebrate. I’ve got nothing against donkeys or donkey charities but – in terms of the positive social change I support in society – donating money to a donkey charity does no more good than buying yourself a nice bottle of wine.

    I completely accept and defend your right to do either, neither or both but I also defend the right of other people to express an opinion about it – as long as they’re reasonably polite about it.

  • Caroline Fiennes

    I agree that the cause is (largely) a matter of personal choice. But within any cause, donors do well to choose the best charities, because charities vary hugely in what they do and how well they do it. On ‘what they do’, some cancer charities, for instance, deal directly with patients, whereas some are out the back doing research or awareness-raising. On how well they do it, some programmes to (say) improve education in India are fully 25 times better than others.

    My book discusses all this – and you can read about half of it for free courtesy of Amazon! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aint-What-Give-That-ebook/dp/B007JYONG2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1339497936&sr=8-2

  • Reece Thompson

    I agree totally with you Phil. Many people only think of them as ‘animals’ that have a lesser value in this world than the ‘advanced’ human. I myself give to animal sanctuarys and am happy I’m the knowledge that I help both animal and people by donating this allow people’s to educate others in how to look after a donkey that is vital to the family that owns it.

    It is interesting that the majority if not all of animal suffering is due to humans, much like the human suffering is inflicted by ourselves. A 5 billion population increase in 200 years is clearly an issue.

    I am sure a world without humans would be perfect for other animals, yet a world without animals would be unimaginable for humans.

    At the end of the day it is entirely up to the individual to give to who they want be it animal or human. Any donations should be applauded not judged.