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Charitable Acts

Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014

The first 20 student comments on “Charitable Acts” win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business. Use your gift to try out that new flavor of ice cream or spend it on two slices of your favorite pizza. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, April 13th, 2014. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Paula is a freshman at a large university in southern California. She is involved with a sorority, Alpha Alpha, on her campus. Paula rushed Alpha Alpha because she heard that it was heavily involved in philanthropy. In fact, Alpha Alpha hosts an annual philanthropy week donating money to a charity that raises money for cancer research.

Paula is excited to take part in the weeklong activities because philanthropy and service have always been an important part of her life. She wants to find out more about the charity, and is thrilled that other college students will also be finding out more about cancer research and what they can individually do to help fight cancer.

When the week approaches, Paula is surprised at the activities that will take place. She notices that not once in the week’s activities does it mention cancer research. Teams simply sign-up and have each member pay $15 to partake in the activities. Paula notices that the activities are simply attending a dinner at a local restaurant, performing a two-minute dance on stage, a karaoke tournament, a fashion show, and a scavenger hunt.

Paula thinks the week is a lame excuse of a philanthropic effort. She hears from her older sorority sisters that teams just pay the fee and never hear about the charity again. Teams allegedly just participate to get drunk and attempt to win the activities for bragging rights. Paula is disappointed to be a part of such a philanthropy week.

Are philanthropy weeks, like the one Paula’s sorority puts on, ethical? Do participants actually get an idea where their money is going? How can philanthropy weeks better incorporate education about the cause they are donating to? What about charity balls that older individuals take part in? Oftentimes individuals pay a large sum of money per plate at these charity events, but don’t learn much about the charity and just attend to boost their social status. Is there a difference between the way they are run and these college philanthropy weeks?

Useful Resources:

A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

Photo by Ahoova available under a Creative Commons license.


Comments Comments

Justin D. Fitzsimmons said on Apr 4, 2014
This program is a terrible excuse for philanthropy. Philanthropy means "love of humanity," something that is not fostered by this week's events. My idea of helping others comes from the Jesuit teaching of being for AND WITH others. Real philanthropy puts you face to face with the people that you seek to help, so that you can help them and share in their lives. Instead, this program advocates throwing money at them without an additional thought for them. These types of events allows these individuals to pat themselves on the back, telling themselves that they have done real good, when these actions are truly self-interested. These programs can be improved by first being more mindful of the people that they claim to benefit, and moreover by getting to know these people for who they are. - Like - 4 people like this.
Jeremy Geist said on Apr 9, 2014
I disagree that in order to help someone one must constantly be face-to-face with them?what's important is that good is done. Take this example: A homeless person is sitting on the sidewalk asking for money. Someone stops, says hello, engages in a short conversation with the homeless person, and gives them a five dollar bill. Later, another person walks by, digs a wadded-up hundred dollar bill out of their pocket, and drops it in the homeless person's cup without looking. The Jesuit tradition may think of the first person as more just, but who, really, has helped more? In my opinion, lavish charity balls are acceptable as long as the amount of money made from them is larger than the amount spent on them. If we examine everyone who donates money for selfish reasons, we would soon eliminate everyone who donates money. That said, many Greek philanthropic events are indeed excuses for backpatting and should be examined more carefully. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Kimberley said on Apr 9, 2014
I think Paula is being overly sensitive. The bottom line purpose of philanthropic fundraisers is raising MONEY for a worthy cause. I agree that more should be done to educate and promote awareness; however, I wouldn?t be dispirited with the organization for having fun and promoting their group. Also, this is a wonderful opportunity for Paula to volunteer to work with this event to improve it. - Like
Z said on Apr 13, 2014
Events such as this are ethical, given the fact that they do raise money and benefit a specific cause. Simply because individuals may not keep the idea of philanthropy in mind, money is still being raised and good is still being done. While it would be nice if people were more aware of the cause, it wouldn't change the amount of benefit being done. Ultimately, I believe that the individuals who should be most concerned with the idea of philanthropy are those who put on the event (sororities). For this reason, I understand why she would be upset about the situation, but I think dedication on her part is more important. As for the participants, they don't need to care about a cause to participate. Events like this are designed to get individuals to donate who would not donate otherwise. - Like
xoxo said on Apr 15, 2014
For win-win situation, they have to change the name of the event. Don't use philanthropy because it doesn't represent it in a good way, so in that sense it's unethical. Paula or somebody need to advise them. - Like - 3 people like this.
K said on Apr 22, 2014
I think it is unethical in the sense that what is being advertised is not what is being given out. Sure, money is collected ut they make it seem like all week they will being doing philanthropy work, which is not the case. On the other hand it is a good way to attract individuals but the advertisement is false. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Ian McCluskey said on Apr 22, 2014
It is absolutely ethical except for the false advertising as stated by K. Besides tricking sorority members into thinking that the sorority will provide a platform for community service type philanthropy, it is wrong to say that the girls are acting unethically. They could lower the fee to $5 and attract a lot more participants, but the philanthropic tradition states otherwise and they are ethical enough to follow that, even in these economically difficult times. - Like - 2 people like this.
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