Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Why I Don't Donate Money To Charity

I often get asked the question whether I donate money to charity. Many people seem to view this simple act as a sign or as proof that someone is a generous, loving person. If you don't donate to charity, people may label you as greedy, selfish or stingy. But there are several reasons why I, and many others with me, don't donate money to charity and none of them have anything to do with being an ungenerous person.

Here are some of my reasons. 

It is unclear where the money goes
When you make a donation to your favorite charity, it is often unclear what the money will be used for, especially if you are donating to a large organization. I don't like these vague structures, because then you never know if you made any difference and what kind of difference you made. You don't get any direct feedback. Therefore it can give you a -possibly false- sense of accomplishment when you made a relatively big donation, or a misguided sense of insignificance when you could only afford to donate a relatively small amount.
If, on the other hand, you donate your time, energy and skills to a particular cause instead of donating money (and not just in an organized sense but also in your daily lifestyle), then the results of your efforts are a lot more transparent. Often you see exactly what you have accomplished, which is a tangible reward for your efforts and a very important part of the 'exchange'. It is also what motivates most people to keep on giving, or something that can help you discover your giving nature if you haven't already. 

The use of money can have detrimental side-effects
A more recent additional reason for me not to donate money to charity is of course the moneyless lifestyle, as I am not spending any money on anything at the moment (with only a few exceptions). This new way of life has also given me a lot of insights. I no longer feel that I need money to make a big difference; in fact, there is more progress to be made by not paying for certain things. The only difference anyone can make is with their personal choices, in everything they do (including financial matters): the things we do and the things we choose not to do. All you need is an open mind and awareness to find out what is right for you in each situation.
Unfortunately, money can easily get in the way of this process of self-discovery. It can contribute to two of the most obstructive mindsets in the quest for freedom: entitlement and obligation. Entitlement can lead to destruction because you feel you have more right to something than others, and obligation can lead to destruction because you believe that you have no say in the choices you make and you have to do certain things just because others tell you to, or because others do the same things, or because someone thinks they have more right to make a decision about something than you do. Both mind-traps are equally dangerous, and these two mental constructs tend to go together in societies that are founded on principles of ownership. Unfortunately, this concept also seeps through in our personal relationships.

Money in itself is not a solution - Taking positive action is 
In the end, what any cause needs most is more people to support and live by its principles. No cause needs more money. Endangered species do not need our money. They need their habitats and they need to be left alone. They need to be protected from hunters who kill for profit. In order to have clean drinking water, we don't need more money. We need to consume less so that we pollute less. And we need to get back to nature so that we use water more sparingly and regain our appreciation of natural resources instead of taking them for granted.
I am not saying money is inherently bad; money is neither good nor bad. And I am sure that sometimes big things can be achieved with fundraising campaigns and collective financial efforts. But even then, in the end what matters most is the efforts and intentions of the individuals to set the goals and make them happen. I aspire to be one of those first and foremost. 

I am not saying that donating money to charity is a bad thing in and of itself and I might even start doing it myself someday. What I am saying is that your individual actions are your biggest contributions. The best way to change the world we live in is to start there. Become aware of what you are supporting with your spending habits, what you are contributing to through your lifestyle choices, and even what the consequences are of the beliefs and ideas you have about the world and other beings. This is where we can all make the biggest impact.

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