Babies and bathwater

I got a call yesterday from a charity.

Actually, I got an unsolicited spam pitch from one of the worst charities in America. They give less than 1% of what they raise to the cause in question.

Therefore, some might say, it makes no sense to give to anyone, ever.

Which would be a shame, because it's a mistake to fail to do the hard work of discerning the good from the deceptive.

The thing is, everything worth doing is done to excess, poorly, immorally, inefficiently, by someone. But that doesn't change the fact that the very same thing done right is worth doing.

One way we make sense of the world is to put things into categories, and to label those categories. The mistake we make again and again is in picking the wrong categories, or giving them easy, but inaccurate labels. We don't need to tar the 'charity' category with sleazy folks like these, they deserve their own category, 'selfish marketers.' Just as we don't benefit by writing off anyone based on their appearance, gender or other easy but useless labels.

When we're actively inclined to do something, we rarely let the bad actors get in the way. People don't say, "some cars are poorly made, and so I'm never going to buy a car," or, "some money is counterfeit, so I'm not going to accept cash…"

The trick is to label people and organizations by what they do, not by what they look like or what they call themselves. The more we reward the behaviors we admire, the less likely the selfish will be able to take advantage of our labeling errors.

The right charity changes the world, just as it changes us when we engage with it.

[Charities I'm donating to today: Acumen, Room to Read, charity: water, DoSomething, Possible Health, Afya, Build On and Pencils of Promise.]