On Donations

Donation is not the same as taxation but it can drain you as much if you are in Nagaland. There are too many contributions, pledge cards and donation drives for this jubilee celebration and that church building project, this sports meet and that get-together. In the month of August 2015, there were some guys who came for donation in aid of a charitable centre. They handed me a calendar and asked me to donate whatever amount I wished to pay. I thought that these guys were early. But when I looked closely at the number, it was not calendar of 2016 but of the current year. Who sells calendar in August when the year is crossed the halfway mark? They left with their ears full without receiving a paisa.

I can’t understand that some unions and associations would sell calendars where they have written, ‘in aid of fund raise’. What kind of aid is it to raise fund for the sake of fund raise? If it is for fund raise, it is not an aid. I remember some years back when a family member had to sell calendars to raise fund for an association. The consequence of this is that she had to buy back calendars of other unions and associations since she had sold to them. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 calendars at home; you have to buy from the ones who bought yours. You don’t need too many calendars because they all tell the same date (unless it is a government calendar with those beautiful days marked in red). So, you can end up exchanging something which both the buyer and the seller don’t need and both are drained by it. 

A kilogram of pork is sold at a very high price in the name of donation. A cheap memento is sold at exorbitant price to raise fund. Villagers go hunting to kill wild animals and birds to gift officers for getting special favour or money. Many endangered species of our animal kingdom land up on the platters of our leaders in the Capital. One may say that donation drives are not done by force. But our social structure and functioning is such that most of us feel obligated to respond positively to such demands. There is always an element of overt or covert compulsion. A relative of mine was asked to sponsor a big religious event (we don’t know how to plan small programs). I would have refused but in his condition, it became difficult to turn them down.     
Some unions/associations and churches don’t even try to raise their own fund. They simply make a list of politicians, officers, and contractors and head to their offices and homes. In many instances, the donations are fixed! By category of income or position, the amounts are all fixed beforehand. But given that there are multiple demand groups and the ones donating are also not similar, it becomes a problem. For example, an honest government officer just by his salary may be struggling to support his family. And if a public leader donates a huge sum of money, one also may suspect where the money is coming from. Multiple demands for donation therefore have the danger of driving corruption.     
Donations are not altogether bad. Through the strong social fabric that we are knitted in, people have come forward to help the community and one another in times of need. Through freewill contribution and donation drives, we are able to fund mission projects and reach out beyond our borders. We need to learn to build our case and be able to persuade people to warm up to our ideas so that people can donate freely and willingly. Philanthropic spirit should increase and we do have people who are willing to contribute and be partner to a worthy cause. But just as we have got it wrong with selling of calendars ‘in aid of fund raise’, many of our donation drives are becoming increasingly unjustifiable.



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