Charity week and philanthropic economics

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Grace Ballor
Contributing Writer

The University of Dallas’ Charity Week has the best of intentions. It’s really amazing that the entire university ceases to operate normally and turns its entire focus to unconventional ways to raise money for charity. Slogans like “it’s for the babies!” make us feel great about ourselves even when paying our way out of jail and auctioning ourselves off to an auditorium full of screaming girls.  But are these efforts to raise money for charity really beneficial to our donors, or are they just excuses to engage in a week of absurdities? Answers to the following questions may help you navigate your way through this UD tradition as an informed participant or rational objector.

1. Are the initial funds worth it?

Even fundraisers require funds in order to attract donations. Fundraising requires the same analysis as a business venture. The only real difference is that a business pockets its profits, while a donor to charity bequeaths all revenue to its beneficiaries. In many cases, including UD’s charity week, the donor must also contribute the initial capital and labor costs gratis. This year’s jail, for example, required more than $500 worth of building materials and a combined 150 hours of labor time from ten students.  Though not directly benefiting charity, these initial investments are necessary to create a situation in which a far greater amount of (forced) giving at the jail would be possible.

2. Does our money really help the beneficiary in the long run?

It seems like a silly question, but some analysts argue that charity, or welfare, is actually a detriment to the recipient. Take the example of a person asking for money on the side of a road. This person may have made bad decisions which rendered him homeless and out of work, or he may have experienced hardship at no fault of his own. You might feel compassion toward him but elect not to give him money for fear that doing so might ruin his work ethic and worsen his dependent state.  Giving him a few dollars may simply confirm his belief that you can do nothing all day and get paid for it.

Unlike the individual on the street, an organization like the White Rose Center, one of our donation recipients, asks for what it could not obtain on its own.  Depending on the charity of its donors to be charitable in turn with those it serves, White Rose operates much like Charity Week itself.  Its ability to affect the lives of young women dealing with crisis pregnancies depends on the capital (buildings, equipment, etc.) and labor (doctors, counselors and staff) it obtains from its donors. It, in turn, donates its revenue to the women it serves.  And so, rather than eroding the work ethic of those at White Rose, our donations help make that work ethic possible.

Just as Charity Week couldn’t run without the university’s funding and support, so too would the organizations to which we donate, like White Rose, be unable to provide its charitable services without support from benefactors like us. So, shoot, imprison, sell yourselves! – not only is it fun, but it really does go to a good cause.

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