Your Cause Marketing Made Me Hate Poor People

The four of us are in a taxi cab in San Francisco when the cabbie starts telling us about his smart granddaughter. She is seven and doesn’t like to eat breakfast. When he told her that children in Africa didn’t have any food she said, “So.”

Just like that, she said, “so?” and nothing else. Because starving children in Africa mean nothing to a seven year old girl living multigenerationally in San Francisco.

Last night I posted a quick video where I opened up a new ASUS Lamborghini computer. Within seconds a comment appeared on YouTube:

meanwhile in Africa….

I’m going to take a note from the seven year old. SO?

I’m going to go ahead and blame cause marketing for all this nonsense, this ridiculous middle class guilt that prevents us from enjoying anything nice if it isn’t tied to a charity. Sometimes you just want something wonderful, and sometimes you work your ass off to afford something wonderful and there’s no reason to not enjoy it.

Charity matters. Giving of onesself is something that makes us better people. Biblically and traditionally the most cherished gifts, the ones seen as being the most pious are anonymous. When you donate two cents on every hundred dollars and then take out seventy three ads to tell me that you’re fighting breast cancer I don’t call that giving. I call that taking.

Understand that it’s not just Africa fatigue over here, I’m also sick to death of the pink ribbons that the Komen foundation slaps on everything. Stop fighting breast cancer with known carcinogens and start giving money to cancer prevention. For fuck’s sake am I the only one with a brain around here?

Last week a celebrity put out a press release that in lieu of gifts for his one year old daughter’s birthday guests were asked to make donations to a charity. One year old’s don’t care about gifts, but they LOVE boxes. Parents of one year old’s often need gifts because they’re young families surviving on more love than money. So good for you mister celebrity that doesn’t need an extra pack of diapers, this is the moment when you invite friends and family over and say “no gifts please”. It’s not necessary for folks to give you something every time they walk over your threshold, and it’s tacky as hell to tell folks what they have to do with their money.

But it only gets worse, because at some point one of your neighborhood kids will not show proper gratitude when his parents give him a gift and the parents will have a sixth birthday party with a charity theme. Really. These horrible people will insist that their little giver has everything he needs and that everyone should just show up with a donation to save the planet. This is uncomfortable, everyone knows that the kid wants gifts, but you’ve got to buy the dumb charity card that’s probably going to just support a fun run or some swank offices in DC so that little Johnny’s Volvo driving mommy can show Los Angeles how full of gratitude her son is.

I don’t want to be asked at the grocery checkout if I’d like to donate to anyone. I really resent the big grocery chains asking for my money so that they can say they’ve given a hundred bazillion dollars to charity and given back to the community. If they want to give back to the community they’ll make sure the folks in my neighborhood have health insurance.

I love that bloggers are working with nonprofits to highlight the plight of those less fortunate. I like that they’re not asking us to do anything, just to listen and to be aware. I have some serious cause marketing fatigue.

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Comments 13

  1. What makes me really crazy is running the gauntlet at the grocery store. I HATE having to walk by the damn girl scout cookie table, the Salvation Army and the 23 people who try to get me to sign petitions to save feral cats, legalize hemp etc.

  2. Great title.  I agree about the “no gifts” at children’s parties.  It is incredibly uncomfortable.  If you aren’t comfortable with your kids recieving gifts, weed out them and out and donate them as a family but don’t impose your weird morality on us.  I felt really odd going to a party for a dear friends child with a print out of the seven chickens we donated in her honor to a family in Kenya.  I’m sure the kid was confused too.

  3. I think the best cause ads out there are the ones that inspire us without patronizing us or using peer pressure to obtain a result.

    Another big plus is when organizations are held accountable for their actions and the money we put in their hands. It’s something Charity water and Kiva has well understood.

    It’s true, it’s no longer enough to show miserable poor people and make us feel guilty. You have to convince people that they can do something and see the actual result in concrete form!

  4. “I’m also sick to death of the pink ribbons that the Komen foundation
    slaps on everything. Stop fighting breast cancer with known carcinogens
    and start giving money to cancer prevention. For fuck’s sake am I the
    only one with a brain around here?”
    Yay!  There are so many cures for cancer already, but you wouldn’t know that from the Komen foundation or your local oncologist.  Some cancer curers, like Renee Caisse, a nurse in Canada, have even been persecuted for dispensing a cure.  Eat some broccoli, folks, for starters, and please throw out the margarine.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now.

    In general, I like to choose my charities.  The ones in the supermarket have no appeal, unless it is the local food pantry.

  5. You are hilarious. All so darn true. Everything’s tied to an agenda, isn’t it. Dang annoying and incredibly obvious. Although you and I seem to be among the few that really get this.

  6. You are hilarious. All so darn true. Everything’s tied to an agenda, isn’t it. Dang annoying and incredibly obvious. Although you and I seem to be among the few that really get this.

  7. I am with you for the most part.  But…. my daughter’s birthday was on Thanksgiving last year and I thought it would be a good lesson for her to ask for food donations for the food bank.  She still got presents and she isn’t scarred for life.  I have noticed that people, around here anyway, don’t seem to care about all the wasted plastic bits and pieces that I have to clean up everyday and try not to step on so long as they get to have their materialistic shopping fix at the expense of my daughter and my family.  What about respecting my morality? 
    I suppose it’s trendy in LA, as you say to throw your money at some charity and feel better about having done “good” to support administration costs.  I totally get what you are saying.  There does seem to be a shallowness involved in the upper middle class charity world, but there are those of us who do care and wish we had the resources to do more.  There are those of us who hear stories coming from Somalia and wish there was something I could do.  I will give you this though, I would be able to do more if it wasn’t for all the health insurance and hospital bills. I suspect you do care and that you have some really good ideas that could really benefit an organization that needs you. :0)

  8. I don’t see eye to eye on a few things I have read from your site, however I totally agree with the cancer propaganda and a lot of other non profit agencies who have high salaries for their executives.

  9. I don’t support many big charities. It’s not that I don’t support their cause, I just don’t particularly like a lot of their agenda. I also prefer to give to smaller, local charities where I know where the money goes. And where i don’t feel guilty because I don’t support x, y, and z. But there’s a difference between supporting you, your family, and your kid and supporting a BIG CHARITY… whose ethics and agenda I usually don’t support. Where it gets tricky is when people don’t do all of their research, or are say, walking in a charity walk in support of YOUR family, in a charity that you don’t suppport….. 

  10. *snaps.. 

    I don’t like those chain letter deals to “raise awareness”. Like posting some bullshit chatter about.. I’m 12 weeks and craving pickles really has anything to do with breast cancer awareness. WTF? Is this what I should consider corporate trolling? How is posting an irrelevant/unrelated remark bring awareness? I’ve heard the argument that if it made one woman remember to get a mammogram, then it’s done the job in spreading awareness.
    Umm.. that’s where Darwinism comes in. If you have to check Facebook to remember such basic health tips..

  11. Great post – and thought provoking. I don’t live in LA and haven’t experienced the charity gift card party you’re talking about. However, that does seem to me to be the worst offense: cause marketing your child’s birthday party. (If it comes from the child, and he/she REALLY had the idea, then let the child send the invitations, talk about why a cause is so very important to him/her, and ask that people make a donation if so inclined.)

    One thing I hate about cause marketing – it rarely cements the giver to the cause. When I donate an extra dollar for hunger, or bring a can of soup to the school for the local food pantry, I’m not doing it because I love the cause. But when I volunteer once a month to drive meals to people’s homes because our school asked for volunteers, then I’m getting closer to the cause and my commitment. Checkout donations raise some awareness, and of course money, but not what is really needed: commitment to ending the problem.

  12. I’m a charity birthday party parent. But here’s the secret: if you don’t want the gifts – and as much as my kid may want the gifts, I’m still the parent in this situation and I say she can do without more plastic trinkets that won’t biodegrade for 5,000 years when we barely have enough room in our tiny home as it is *ahem* – don’t have the party. It’s a win-win.

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