When I told my mum I was going to write this piece for xoJane, she implored me not to. Her exact response was ‘Dan. Charities are good, don’t write about this. Don’t come off as a tight arse Jew’.
Casual racism aside, mum I'm sorry, but this is really getting my goat. Let the backlash begin!
I open up Facebook, and half my friends are asking me to sponsor a cause they’re running for yet another charity. Click on Twitter, and there’s ‘donate here’ links scattered across my feed.
Then a collector knocks on my front door to donate to the local deaf kids. When I actually leave the house, I find a multitude of bags which I can use to donate my unwanted stuff to even more charities outside my front door.
After all of this, I get off the Tube and people are catching me in the street, asking me to save the tigers, or shaking their charity cans at me. And I’ve had enough.
So far, so tight, right? After all, it’s all in a good cause. But the thing is, I already have two direct debits set up, one for Cancer Research at £10 a month, and another one to Great Ormond Street Hospital for £5 a month. They've both been going out for about eight years. That’s my lot, and it’s all I can afford, but how do I say no to the rest?
And this is a problem. My wage is so specifically broken down, at the end of the month, I literally have no excess money. And if by some miracle there’s money left in the kitty, and I spontaneously donate, how much do I give? Surely a fiver is too tight? But if I give two charities a fiver each, I’m going to look doubly tight.
And yes, I could just be anonymous on the Just Giving page, but then I’ve become the tight arse witch who never donates because no-one knows it was me. And then there’s this anonymous person who’s only given a fiver when everyone else has given a tenner or twenty quid! A fiver! A FIVER you say? Stingy. Argh!
I realise that divulging what I donate to charity, and then having a right bitch about the culture of donating at the same time is akin to a racist saying ‘but I’ve got black friends’. But the guilt chews me up. Guilt. A useless emotion – like a rat gnawing on your elbow.
The guilt's got so bad that I now can’t turn on daytime television if it means I’m going to be subjected to even more pleading, poverty stricken/save the panda infomercials. It’s like they’re reaching out of the TV, and putting their hands around my heart and squeezing. And my purse, they’re squeezing that too. My guilt levels almost overdose me.
Come Children In Need evening, I just hide from the TV altogether. It’s not allowed to be on. In fact turn the power off at the mains, because it’s like a goddamn poltergeist that will reach out the screen, and before you know it you’ve donated a tenner. Then you’ve called back to donate another tenner. It get’s me every time. How can you watch it, and not give?
While I’m laying it all out on the table, one evening last week, while I was upstairs getting the kid ready for bed, there was a knock at the door. My husband answered it, and I heard someone giving him a muffled spiel. I popped my head down the stairs and told him to close the door.
Turns out it was some bloke collecting for charity – he asked my husband for £2 to give to local deaf kids. Unlike me, my husband felt so guilty at turning him down that he put his trainers on and went out into the night to find this elusive deaf collection man and give him the money.
He ran down the road after him (and my husband doesn’t run for anyone) to give him the cash, but the bloke then told him he wasn’t allowed to take cash donations, and can he give him a cheque please? A what? Who the hell has a cheque book these days?
That wasn’t he straw that broke the camel’s back, though. That would be the nursery library.
My kid’s nursery (which, let it be known, is a private nursery, which we pay £55 a day for her to attend, so about £800 a month) sent home a letter asking us to do a sponsored read-a-thon. This is where we have people sponsor us, to read to our kids, and then we collect money so they can buy books for the nursery.
Now all of that sounds fabulous, but I already read to my daughter every day. I don’t want to have to beg people to pay me to do so. The thought of patrolling my office or family and friends and asking them to give me money to read to my child, like I already don’t, pisses me off and makes me cringe.
Surely they are a private nursery and should have the funds to pay for books for the kids anyway? It’s like a nursery asking us to buy them new toys. Sorry, isn’t that what we pay for our £800 a month for? For them to provide a learned environment, and keep our kids safe and warm?
After all of that, I got twenty quid off my husband and gave it to the nursery, having ‘forgotten’ the sponsorship form. I totally caved.
Maybe I’m worrying too much about what to give and who to give to. I know I seem all all bah-humbug about it all, but I do what I can with direct debits and I drop bags of clothes and toys at the local charity shop a couple of times a year.
I donate what I can, when I can, but it never seems to be enough. And maybe that’s the guilt talking again. All I can do it try and support the charities that really mean something to me. It’s the best I can do.
PS They’ve even got me at the credit card point! I bought a toy for my daughter on Tuesday which was £9.60, and the guy asked if I’d like to round it up to £10 for Great Ormond Street. I mean what’s another 40p in the grand scheme of things?