Why I don’t give alms

I had meant to write this for quite some time, was putting it off – my periodic procrastination at work :)

The day I read through this article (an NGO for every 400 Indians), it was enough to spew forth a series of questions … questions aimed at people who work in NGOs and those who invest in them. With 3.3 million NGOs (the registered number in 2009), what impact has it really done to the country? At a micro-level, I agree that NGOs would be making a difference to the concerned community, but at what cost?

Do we (the nation) really have so many problems that it is taking so many NGOs to work? Imagine the amount of funding and human capital that must be going into these. I know folks who work for NGOs, and they take this funding for granted. This is the most appalling thing!! What gives you the self-righteous attitude to demand charity? (You can expect, but the day you demand I give you the bird).

The only way an NGO should sustain themselves, is not through charity, but through generating their own revenues. If the wealth of the nation is spent on giving to the needy, then the needy will never stand on their feet – they will just spread their arms more open.

Why can’t NGOs have business models and start being sustainable? Smart people will now talk about Social Entrepreneurship … what really gets my goat here, is that how is it any different from entrepreneurship? But that’s fodder for a different post.

Personally speaking, the reason why I do not give alms is that charity is a disabling act. When you give charity, it is a positive reinforcement of the fact that begging gives you livelihood. Once a person starts begging, the first thing he loses is his dignity, and then he loses his capability … downhill thereafter.

I truly believe in –

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Whenever a beggar approaches me, I offer them work instead of money. Sadly, none of them has yet to take up the offer.

8 thoughts on “Why I don’t give alms”

  1. My thoughts exactly. In USA, there is a organisation (United Way) that approaches businesses and asks for help. They help organize events with the businesses help and all the money generated by employees goes to charity*. Some events in our workplace being – donate 1$ on Friday to wear jeans to work, silent auctions of products donated by various departments.

    *for every 1$ donated, United Way takes a cut to run it. Although this makes them self-sustainable, I would rather give 100% of my money directly to the needy (not beggars) than to a middle-man.
    Your thoughts?

  2. Ashish, I see what you are saying and I agree that the money should be given directly to the needy. But rather than money, I would prefer to give aid (services, capabilities, etc).

    There is a firm in India, by the name of Unlimited India. It gives financial and managerial aid to budding social entrepreneurs. The only way I am willing to contribute is like this.

    1. But then again its aid to sort of a middle man right? If you can directly influence a person, why not go straight to him/her? It can be emotional support by being there when needed to pick them up or pat on the back or a monetary aid (as a last resort).

  3. I think organisation like world vision , Plan are social entrepreneurship, why else would anyone get into charity if there is no money involved, its very difficult for me to even think one would be selfless enough to work towards improving the situations rather than asking for charity. But how is charity being used does make a difference right? What if it is used to start up something like a small manufacturing factory which can them employ other people? that I feel fits into your projected perspective. I don’t believe in givign direct money , but contributing to the ways to create opportunities does make a difference. But again there are various ways to point out. For example, the NGO I contribute to does this – put the money I give into a needy child’s welfare. Infact its one -to-one mapping. One donor one child welfare, though its direct money contribution, I ma happy the child is going to school and learning.

    1. Durga, thats why I agreed with this at a micro-level. One donor one child, child is happy. The sustainability is being questioned here, if the NGO does not create any value of sustainability, then it has to depend on the society for existence, and that is not agreeable.

  4. Best way to help poor is to generate employment and opportunities for them. Although even I pay some money as a charity every month (To UNICEF and CRY), I’m pretty much of the same opinion.

    PS: I’m ready to put money on education of a child if he commits to work for me when he grows up.

    1. I like the saying – God helps those who help themselves. So yes, generate employment and ensure that the jobless generate that employment.

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