Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Charity for charity's sake

In the newspaper business - or any media outlet, I imagine - you come across a lot of attention hogs.

There's quite a variety. There's the "pusher" parents of star athletes or students, letting you know of every little teeny tiny accomplishment of their kid. Then there are the town know-it-alls, who, as you might have guessed, think they know everything and should therefore be included in every article ever written. You've also got the ones who had their five minutes of fame for whatever reason (maybe was an extra in a movie or wrote a book) and are still trying to stretch that out 10 years later.

The attention hogs I hate the most, though, are the charity ones.

I think the things that really gets me is the slight irony of it all - the selfless goodwill of volunteering or running a non-profit venture, mirrored with the insatiable need to have your actions broadcasted for all the community to see every step of the way. Is it still selfless? Not really. Is it still helpful volunteerism? Well, sure. But it doesn't hold the same weight for me, personally, if someone volunteering so desperately needs credit for doing so.

I volunteer with the local animal shelter. I wish I could do more - I want to do more - but my schedule really keeps me from it. But from volunteering for different venues since middle school, it never occurred to me to get media attention for it. I volunteer because I want to help make a difference in my community. I want to help people (and animals) who need it. If people know I do it, that's great. If they don't, still fine.

This is not to say there shouldn't be coverage of non-profits or volunteer efforts - that's far from what I'm saying. Non-profits definitely need coverage. It spreads awareness for their cause and, hopefully, will spur others to donate time, money or items. I love covering non-profits, whether it's the cookie drive for troops by the local American Legion or the programming at the local cancer support network, Gilda's Club. These are awesome things that deserve attention.

So are people who volunteer. If a local brownie troop cleans up Kennedy Park, they should get the perk of seeing their smiling faces in the newspaper or on television. If the high schoolers bake dog treats during their study halls to hand out to local animal organizations, it's right to highlight their efforts. This is good news. It's happy news. It's news that will get others thinking they can do something like this, too.

The people I'm talking about - the charity attention hogs - are the ones who seem to be conducting the charity work just as much for the publicity as they're doing it for the charity, or perhaps even more so. They must have their names/company's name tied prominently with the organization. They must get credit for what they're doing first and foremost, as opposed to wanting to spread the word of how the charity venture works and how others can help. It's all about them-them-them - and oh yeah, the charity, too.

It's sort of hard to explain, and unless you've come across these types of people, you might not understand what I'm saying. But while I've only been in the business full time for a few years, I've seen this happen countless times. As a huge advocate of volunteerism, it boggles my mind. It's such a skewed motive.

This is definitely the minority, but it goes along with that idea of just a few spoiling it for the whole bunch. When I get five pleasant phone calls in a day, it's that one screamer that leaves the biggest impression. So when you have a ton of amazing people working with non-profits, it's the couple doing it for the wrong reasons that stick out, unfortunately.

Wrong reasons or not, if they're volunteering and helping out others, I guess they can do what they need to do. Of course, I'm going to do what I need to do, too.

And that's not write about them - at least not until they get their priorities in order.

No comments: