They Walk Among Us … and Vote

Separating well-meaning but uninquisitive donors from their money is a scam as old as charity itself. 

Over a century ago, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn scoundrels, the Duke and the Dolphin, bilked gullible church-goers with their tales of Indian Ocean pirates and their intentions to convert these malefactors to the Way of truth and righteousness.

But today, social media has greatly expanded the fraudster’s bag of tricks.  The name of the game is to create “buzz,” so that the charity can become the cool new cause. 

As to what the cause is, or – more importantly – what the charity raising the money will actually do in furtherance of that cause – these are just bothersome details. 

As the latest Bloomberg Business Week explains:

Millennials donate money differently, explains Richard Honack, a nonprofit marketing expert and a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Baby boomers and most Gen Xers give to what they know: their churches, universities, maybe a cancer society. But [for] younger people, a buzz cause will come on, like the Haiti earthquake or Invisible Children, and they’ll donate money without even thinking about where it’s going. They just assume they’re doing something good.”

We already know that hundreds of thousands of young people are taking on enormous, non-dischargeable debts to acquire college degrees that are, for all real-world purposes, useless.  But it still comes as a surprise to learn that so many are failing to learn even the most basic critical thinking skills – namely, to ask at least a few rudimentary questions before handing over your money.

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2 Responses to “They Walk Among Us … and Vote”

  1. nmnw Says:

    Yes, I prefer to donate time and money directly, too. When I worked in the large-corporate world, there was always considerable pressure to contribute to the United Way, despite the questions about where the money really went (and the national director’s lavish use of UW funds to entertain his teenage girlfriend).

  2. Brian Rock Says:

    Or, you could think like an economist, and not give money to anyone at all. ;)

    There was an interesting episode of the Freakonomics podcast this week about that very topic. For my part, I hate giving money to big charities precisely because I don’t know where that money is going. I cringe every time my wife sees some commercial and wants to donate money for something.

    I’m a high school teacher at an urban high school, and I would much rather donate my time and money directly helping out my students – because then I know exactly where the money’s going.

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