Charity and Ethics
The phrase “charity begins in the home” is false. Charity begins in a society’s social norms and values. When a person is deciding on which charitable organization to support, they are subconsciously affected by a sliding scale of values. A person’s choice is not altruistic, but is rather laden with morals and ethics.
People follow society’s current social issues, often placing emphasis on one cause over another, and the choice to give money and/or time is based on the bias for one charitable cause. Value-laden choices mix societal trends with personal beliefs. For instance, a person may support society’s call for increased protection of the earth’s climate, but when choosing a cause to champion, they dismiss the arguments for protection and instead base their choice on how they feel about a particular cause. For them, the emphasis is not on what society views as a problem, but on what issue is most personally important.
Recently, I spent a morning reviewing grant requests. As I read through the various applications, I realized that I had sorted the requests based not on need, but on my preference for their target population. I also recognized I sorted the applications based on perceived need. I weighed each application based on my knowledge of other outside funding and outcomes the organization has had with previous monies. My intent to grant money to organizations was altruistic, but my choices were value-laden. I chose what organization should receive funds based not on society’s values, but on my own. Once I realized how my choices may involve an intrinsic bias, I stepped away from the process to reflect on my morals and ethics.
Ethically, I knew it was wrong to determine whether an organization would be funded based on subconscious preconceptions of an organization’s target population or outside funding. The act of providing money to help a population of underserved people should not be taken lightly. The ability to determine where the money is granted is immense. No charitable organization should be diminished because it does not reflect my personal preferences, especially when I am acting on behalf of a trust or foundation. Personal preferences may determine choices when I am choosing a charity as an individual.
The act of picking a charity to support as an individual is still laden with preferences. While trying to choose a charity based on society’s emphasis on important issues, perceived needs, and funding, people will invariably choose based on their beliefs. The act of giving to charity is interwoven with personal bias. Electing to give to a women’s shelter over saving the dolphins is charged with a person’s sliding scale of values. Charitable choices are determined by morals, values, and, for some, the need to be viewed as altruistic. Charity reflects society's norms and values; an individual’s choice to support an organization reflects their values.