Maybe it was the way he raised his eyebrows that did it. Or maybe it was because I’d had the flu all week and was feeling unusually cranky. Or maybe, just maybe, the oily little flunky richly deserved my tirade. Whatever the case, the point is, I don’t usually abuse people collecting for Charitable Organisations.

I had run up the back steps to answer the doorbell, only to see a man with a clipboard and a lanyard with a bit of laminated cardboard hanging around his neck, and I knew, automatically, as I walked down the hall, that it was some bastard wanting money from me. Either he’d be collecting for a dubious Charity I’d never heard of, or trying to get me to subscribe to some product I never wanted.

As it happened he was from the Epilepsy Foundation. I stopped him at that point, not wanting to waste the time of either one of us.

“No. Sorry,” I said, cutting him off firmly but politely, “I can’t help you. I have no money to spare. Good luck anyway.”

Then, instead of just going away, he stood there and raised his eyebrows in what I’d have to describe as a judgmental way and gave a little derisory snort of contempt. A kind of scornful “Humpff.” Yes, his whole attitude radiated that of somebody judging me for being a miserable, uncharitable skinflint with the heart of a Scrooge. “Too selfish to care about anybody else’s suffering,” the thought was written clearly on his face.

Something snapped in my brain.

“Fuck you Jack and your attitude,” I snarled,

“I get a minimum of fifteen charitable organisations a day asking me for money. I’m not bleeding Bill Gates. I can’t give money to all of them. Every second phone call I get is someone asking for money, that or trying to sell me solar heating.

I walk down the street and smiling strangers pretending familiarity accost me in the name of Charity. I walk into the shopping centre and there’s more of them. And each week a different charity stall is standing in the same place. This week its Save the Tree Octopus, next week its Syphillis Support or Colonic Depression. And now you come unasked to my door and judge me because I don’t immediately cough up cash to your particular Brand. Tell me,” I demanded, “how much money have you personally donated to this particular charity? I’ll double it!”

But he was walking away rapidly by now.

“No, really!” I yelled after him, “Are you actually committed to the cause of Epilepsy or do you just work on Commission?”.


Yes it was an ugly scene, and I probably should have just maintained a dignified silence. But goddamn it, it really made me feel better afterwards to have had a good rant.

Yes, Damn these Charities. They proliferate like rats. And these days they never just want a donation. Oh no. They’re not just rattling a can. They want your name and address and bank details and a monthly direct-debit from your bank account for years to come. Even if they just get your address they’ll bother you for the rest of your life.

The traditional Charities have been joined by a proliferation of “Environment” related Causes. Sadly, there’s many a former Activist Organisation that seems to have degenerated into a revenue raising operation, sending out teams of poorly paid, idealistic young people to drift-net the human shoals for lucre, while a small cadre of professional “hero-activists” pull the occasional High publicity stunt to raise the public profile of their Brand.(yes Greenpeace I’m looking at you).

I suspect half of the so-called “environmental organisations” have degenerated into nothing more than pyramid schemes that play on milking Middle class guilt. Yes, you’re all too lazy to ever really make any Lifestyle changes to help the Environment, so you can calm those twinges of conscience

by a small monthly donation. Your donation will then help to pay the wages of those who make a profession out of running Charities.

Besides, how do you even know these so-called “Charity Collectors” are even real? Scams abound, both on the Net and in the Real World. Sadly, a clipboard and a bit of laminated cardboard on a lanyard are no longer guarantees of respectability.


But what I really hate is how the cheerful little plastic-flunkies they have trawling the shopping centres and malls for money, all act and sound like they all came out of the same Corporate Cookie Cutter, wearing the same false smiles, the same fake bonhomie, spouting the same insincere phrases. Naturally I just assumed they were Corporation Clones, spawned in some underground laboratory, but an old Associate of mine proffered an alternative explanation, and it certainly seemed to explain the facts.

“Ah Reverend,” he sighed and shook his head wearily,”you’re living in the Past! These days your efficient, modern, go-getting Charity doesn’t do its own collecting. No, they sub-contract out the task to Professional Organisations who work on a percentage. These (for profit) organisations specialise in getting money out of the public. They have done much Research and have their own Training Schools, into which they pour a steady stream of backpackers, who are churned out as carbon-copy shills who work on Commission. They rarely last long on what they earn, but that’s ok, there are always more backpackers to replace them.

Those few who last, will be collecting for “Ban the Blunderbuss” one week, and the next week they’ll be soliciting on behalf of “the Oppositional-Defiance-Disorder Foundation

The Brand doesn’t matter once they have the Technique. They just get given the appropriate T-shirt & logo, a FAQ sheet so they can give a facile answer to the Public’s ill-informed questions, and a clipboard.”

“Don’t forget the lanyard,” I reminded him,”it’s not an Official Charity unless they’re wearing a lanyard with a bit of laminated cardboard bearing their photo. That’s how you know you can trust them”.

“Indeed,” he agreed, lighting his pipe,”Standards must be maintained if the Public’s trust is to be kept.

“But the important thing to remember,”  he continued, “is that we are living in the Age of the Professional. Much as we may be nostalgic for the old amateurish, ad-hoc charitable practices of the Past, relying on people’s generosity and goodwill, waiting for them to put something in the poor-box, and so forth, these are simply no longer viable in the 21st century.

This isn’t just Charity, old chap. This is an Industry.”


Postscript: Kindness

Theres an old saying, “Charity begins at Home”. I used to think it indicated a certain selfishness, but now I’m older I’m not so sure. Perhaps what it suggests is that our charity/compassion/imperative to help others, call it what you will, should start with those closest to us. Our family..our friends..our neighbours..our community..the environment and the animals around us. But also kindness to the Stranger, who lands unlooked for on our door-step and needs our aid.

I’d rather hand over $5 to some poor busker on the corner, or to an old “black-fella” asking for a smoke at the bus-stop, than give it to the Charity-of-the-Week.

Compassion should be part of our everyday Life, not a once a month direct debit from your bank account.

And perhaps the philosophy behind this Saying is companion to another Saying, the well known maxim of environmental


“Think Global.. Act Local”


Or maybe I’m really just a selfish bastard.



The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.

There are worse people in the world.



~ by reverendhellfire on September 2, 2012.

4 Responses to “SWEET CHARITY”

  1. You are right about the collectors. They are parasites. We don’t seem to have anywhere near as many as you encounter. Maybe we have better laws controlling ‘panhandling’ and begging.

    • perhaps i should put a sign on my gate “no hawkers or soliciters.” Although I don’t actually mind when religious types knock on my door wanting to convert me. I’ve had many a fine discussion with the seventh day adventists & mormons (I’ll convert one someday!)

  2. Yes. Totally agree! First time I ever attached an url to a comment, but here it fits – my view: http://managuagunntoday.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/criminals-of-the-western-world/

    • In Asia I saw street beggars sitting on the ground, with one hand out, palm up, silently supplicating for charity, and the other hand covered their face, so you wouldn’t see their shame. But these Western “Charities” are well dressed and well fed, they grab with both hands
      and they have no shame at all.
      Thankx for comment,I’ll check out the URL
      the Rev

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