Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Is this what charity is about?

There's a commercial on American TV airing mostly at night encouraging viewers to support a nonprofit dealing with abandoned animals. A worthy cause no doubt. The announcer, an actor I presume reads the copy in a shaky if not crying voice, over images of dogs in cages. The message is simple: give, give, give- and I guess- there's merit to it. All nonprofits need money and they need to stake their case. I must say, as someone who is also in the charity sector- although with a different cause- I don't like that ad. And I reach for the remote as soon as it comes on. I understand the need to make a passionate appeal- and having only thirty seconds to get the pony- but to me that presentation crosses the line. I would have felt differently if one of the founders or volunteers got on camera and made such an emotional presentation spontaneously speaking from the heart. But to me- with the tone and direction intentionally hitting that one note- it felt, well, I dare say it, calculating and emotionally manipulative. And then it kept on, when I think the message has landed. A different ad but for a similar cause uses the song called "In the Arms of the Angel". I have a friend who can't even listen to it as it as it comes on on the radio because it makes him cry. And it really got me thinking- is it what the nonprofit sector is, at least to some people? Making people feel bad? Playing on emotions? If so, we've been approaching this business all wrong. Is it really about making people feel guilty for what they have and for the fact that others have less? Is the message of charity really:"You must give, otherwise you're a heartless human being"? On the other hand it allows some to feel better than others because they have the resources and the ability to share them. With one gesture they raise above it all and get to quiet their guilty conscience. Or worse: they seek validation through charity work. I'm not sure I like that either. That's not the reason why I got into this sector. Maybe I'm naive and perhaps I'll never build a great international institution. But I'm not sure I'd want to.  For me a nonprofit's role is not to boost anyone's ego or to tear anyone down for being successful. It's a platform to talk about interesting things in interesting ways. To introduce you to the causes that I care about. For me- it's disability. And I'm tempted to say that I care about making you think more than I care about that check. We do need that check though, but I'd rather it go with a message of how we can do something amazing together.

 I started a nonprofit to focus on the positive- not to make people cry. To talk about some project ideas we have to change how people feel about disability, accessibility and mobility. I guess we could show sad and depressed people in wheelchairs crying and abandoned- and we know there are individuals like that. But that's not I wanted to show, not what I wanted to dwell on. I want to build on excitement - on how the world could be, even if we have long way to go. I want to focus on change, on empowerment, on inclusion on empathy. For me Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation is a dream and a goal. I'll continue talking about addressing these points with energy and positivity.  Perhaps one day you'll join us- visit http://fdaaf.org, see our vision and drop us a note. And I'd like to see more nonprofits talking about how they want to change the world rather than describing it the way it is today. I'd like for all of us to work towards a grand vision that can inspire us all.

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