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Digital Media, Ruminations, Uncategorized, Writings


Recently I was researching web sites that raise funds for nonprofits, as part of a project at work. After a few, I began to notice many incorporated an approach that’s been in use by for-profit companies for years—inflating the importance of the consumer, or in this case, the donor. They emphasized that by making a donation, or becoming involved in a cause, the giver would be noticed—s/he would be something of a “star.”

One site allowed users to create their own “Charity Badge,” with a photo and a list of donations made, which could be displayed on a blog or other site. Another offered a personal area with links to a “My” suite of tools: My friends, My kudos, My click to donate, My whatever.

My God.

This seems somehow antithetical to the idea of charity, which, as I previously understood it, is to give, not get. It was about doing the right thing, not feeding one’s ego. But somehow giving, like almost every other concept, has been transformed into an aspect of self-promotion—what’s my ROI if I contribute? How will it make me look? What’s in it for moi?

This marketing strategy actually makes sense if you consider the success of ad campaigns that stress the consumer’s self-importance uber alles. Pandering to individual egos works. It sells stuff. And I can’t really blame nonprofits for doing what they can to raise funds in these tough economic times. Or can I?

Andy Warhol had it right. In 1968 he said, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Jump ahead to 2010 and that timeframe has been digitized down to 15 seconds of fame—everyone has a blog, a Facebook page, a video on YouTube—you barely have time to see the face, read the name, and move on, the next image may be more interesting. Is this what matters?

I have a suggestion: next time you want to make a donation of money or goods or just want to be nice in some way, do it anonymously. Send money but ask the charity not to list your name (or don’t even tell them your name). Drop off used items or food at a shelter and don’t take a receipt. Do something nice for a stranger, just for the hell of it. And then, don’t tell anyone you did it.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


3 thoughts on “Anonymously

  1. We could all use a few random acts of kindness. It brightens my day to give them. It brightens my day to receive them.

    And consider giving that guy on the street a few bucks. Yeah, he might use it to buy a beer, but you can’t go wrong when you err on the side of mercy. If I were living on the streets, I might need a beer, too.

    Posted by cpurcel1 | May 15, 2010, 3:13 AM
  2. Nice. We’re so self-involved. I like this idea for treating depression. Do something for someone else. If that doesn’t work, do two things for two people, and so on. Keep going and before you know it, you’ll be feeling a lot better. (I’m not talking clinical depression here, but still.)

    It’s not about being a celebrity.

    Posted by Claire Gebben | May 15, 2010, 2:21 PM
  3. A good reminder, Joe. “Charity,” in its oldest usage, means “love of humankind.” That’s pretty much the opposite love/promotion of self.

    As often as we writers told to self-promote online for the sake of “platform” and notoriety, it’s good to be reminded how narcissistic and uncool it can really become.

    Posted by Kelly Davio | May 16, 2010, 12:34 AM

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