In recent years, in line with the rise of young people’s self-obsessed “Facebook Culture”, charity has increasingly become a source of pride, and even an excuse to fund events that really have very little to do with charity.
For example, in 2015 The Glasgow Guardian revealed that the Glasgow University Charity Fashion Show had squandered its funding (including £8000 from the Chancellor’s Fund), managing to raise just over £3000 for charity. The thousands of pounds that could have been used for worthwhile charity work instead went to funding the hedonistic, Dionysian desires of already privileged young people.
This kind of blatant ego-boosting clearly shows us that these organisers care more for themselves than they do for the people they claim to be helping. The GUCFS is blatantly designed to guarantee the “BNOC” organisers an echo chamber of how great their party was and how great they all looked at it.
We can apply this view of charity events to more than just “charity” fashion shows – the phenomenon extends much further than this. “Charity” skydives, “charity” fun runs, and “charity” bike rides (to name but a few) are all ubiquitous examples of people using the image of charity in an attempt to satisfy their own vanity.
Now that there are a plethora of channels with which we can connect to people, it’s not only easier to boast about how you built an orphanage on your voluntourism holiday, but to ask for others to fund it.
I was recently in Edinburgh, and was met with the astounding site of two young women walking down Princes Street with cardboard signs asking for money to fund their “charity” trip to Paris. They were so concentrated on their fundraising that they failed to notice the homeless men and women they were sauntering past. Perhaps instead of their little expedition to Paris, they could have offered a warm meal to one of the thousands of homeless people whose only destination for that day was a doorway barely sheltering them from the dreary Scottish winter.
Charity should be a personal, quiet affair. Good deeds should be performed because you want to help people other than yourself. Once you start to exploit charity for likes and retweets, it not only cheapens your act, but also disconnects it from the true meaning of charity - sincere human compassion.
The use of charity as a means of improving your own image is a trick long used by businesses to make people think they are buying a “kinder” option. For example, a bar puts on a pub quiz, with a £1 entry fee. “All proceeds go to charity” they proclaim, but all the profits from drinks and food end up in their pockets. Perhaps this abuse of the concept by businesses has made people more comfortable with the idea of exploiting charity for themselves.
To further prove their own obsession with themselves, we need only glance at the recently posted event posters for the GUCFS. If you look closely, you can see the two crossed plasters of the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, conveniently omitting the charity’s name. This is neatly sandwiched between the “GUCFS” logo and location. It’s unclear if any of the children will be joining the Fashion Show, or indeed, if hospital gowns are “in” this year.
One way in which the GUCFS could attempt to redeem itself is by putting its egregious waste of funds to some kind of positive use. Given that the fashion show is a university-sanctioned society and event, GUCFS has an opportunity to represent the actual diversity in race, gender and body shape seen on campus. Their selection of a tiny representation of the true diversity in Glasgow essentially dictates the “GUCFS-sanctioned” image of what a Glasgow University student “should” look like and glosses over the wide range of people at the University.
It’s easy to avoid these pitfalls when trying to contribute to charity. There are thousands of charity shops you can volunteer at for a few hours a week. Quit smoking, and donate what you would have spent on cigarettes to a charity that matters to you. Buy a box of oats at Tesco and put it in the foodbank box when you leave. Call up your local foodbank and ask if they need an extra set of hands one night a week. Just don’t feel the need to tweet about it.