Saturday, April 10, 2010

Children International Again.

Have you met these people? Have you been able to walk away without feeling either like a terrible person or pissed off at them?

They're a charity where the deal is that you donate $22/month, and the money goes to one particular kid in a poor place. And of course it does all these wonderful things for this kid, vaccinations, education, etc. Anyway, they're very visible, at least around Seattle, because they have canvassers go out on the street to persuade you to sign up to sponsor a kid. And once you make eye contact, they will not take no for an answer!

So of course, this is annoying. I've met them twice before, I think, and never signed up; the first time, because you don't just sign up for a $262/year commitment on the street just like that, and the second time because I was so weirded out by the first time.

I met them again today. An affable lad named Tristan and a cute girl named Kat. Both of my general demographic (err, young, white, reasonably well-off). I could tell as soon as Tristan started talking to me that they were from Children International, because nobody else in my demographic approaches me on the street.

They gave me the whole spiel, I told them I'd met them before and didn't want to give them money, they continued their spiel and told me the details. Now, I don't want to give them money, but why not? I laid out my objections:
1. "They could be a scam." But I know they're not, I researched them before.
2. "You don't just sign up for a $262/year thing on the street." But I've researched them before, and in fact I am currently actively looking for places to give money to.
3. "It's just a band-aid, it doesn't get to the root causes of poverty." But it sounds like they know what they're doing, and they're on my side with this one. If kids are dying of dysentery or whatever, sure, they'll vaccinate kids against it, but they'll also get a well installed so the kids have clean water, and also by paying for a kid's education, maybe he'll become an engineer.
4. "You don't know the long-term effects." Of course not. And who knows, maybe this could turn out awful somehow. But that seems unlikely; it seems mostly likely that this could be mostly good, and that's about as good a solution as I know.
5. "You should do charity closer to home." Okay, that's not even MY objection. Sheesh. I like the idea of helping faraway kids just as much as helping nearby kids. (plus your dollar goes a lot farther in a faraway place.)
6. "They'll bully the kids. Force them to write letters and stuff. It's all imperialist-weird." From my prior internet research, this seems untrue. Plus, they're adamant about not putting the kids into a weird spot; they're secular, not pushing any agenda.
7. "I'll do it later. I'm doing things today; context-switching so I can think about poverty is not productive." But then I won't do it later. (have I ever before?)
8. "It's too much money." What? I am planning to give much more than that this year sometime to someone. Why not to these kids?
9. "This seems too easy. Donating money isn't that easy." Why not? Wouldn't this be the ideal charity; one that helps kids holistically, and then makes it easy on the donors too?
10. "They shouldn't be out on the street." Again, why not? These are not paid salesmen, they are young men and women who really care about what they're doing. Who better to raise money for an organization?
11. "They're an inefficient charity; give somewhere else where your money will be used more effectively." I don't think they are; looks like they're a 3-star organization where 82% or whatever of your money goes to aid.

I couldn't figure out any reason not to give to these folks! Besides that it felt too good to be true, and that it felt weird. And that I was angry at them, because whenever I tried to segue out and move on with my day and say "Well I'll look into it later" or something, they would not let it drop! But for a good reason: if they do, I'll never donate. But I still do not want to donate to them! But I can't figure out any reason why. It was this sort of terrible logic tornado that I used to get myself into more than I do now, and so I just at one point had to say "I am walking away now. Bye."

Argh! I guess the thing to do is to just not think about it, and continue with my philanthropic adventures to try to figure out what I actually want to donate to. But I guess I'm just curious: Have any of you done this? Or do you also hate these hard-selling fundraisers? Or are you also weirdly fascinated with them, kind of like Mormons or Scientologists?

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