We were invited to one of those parties you don’t really want to go to but feel obliged because you’ve run out of excuses. There will be "friends of friends" there who you’re gloomily sure you won’t get on with because you’re not even entirely convinced you like your own friends and you have to endure sharing information about yourself with folk who are basically strangers.
I’m always proud to tell them I work in the voluntary sector, but lately, because of the negative press about charities, I’m never quite sure what the reaction will be, so I do tend to gird my loins. On this occasion it turns out I should have turned up in full body armour.
I was blasted with a torrent of invective from Mr Knowy McKnowitall about how badly run charities are and how they don’t spend the money "on the cause", which is why he didn’t donate and never would. He had a particular beef with children’s charities asking him for money. I have to admit, I was a bit tired and cranky and I’m fed up with people justifying why they don’t give to or support charities and expecting me to sympathise with their ill-informed opinions when I don’t. My last nerve was shredded.
I said: "All the money goes to the cause, you utter plank!* When you give a tenner to any children’s charity they don’t then go out and find some random kid on the street who looks vaguely traumatised and hand your money straight to them! The money pays for services that help them: for counsellors; for advisers; for advocates; for training; for safeguarding; and for the facilities and support that drive those things. And do you honestly think that an organisation that is working with vulnerable young folk, raising huge sums of money to ensure children are safe and looked after, would risk not handling your donation appropriately?!
"And shouldn’t any responsible organisation ensure that there are paid professionals as well as volunteers to do some of the work and to manage and support the workers? And as for them having the temerity to ask you for money – well, with the best will in the world even the most generous people, of which you are clearly not one**, don’t wake up in the morning thinking ‘oooh, I must donate some money to charity today’. People donate because they are reminded that charities need money to do their work, and because charities ask. Your irritation about being asked is nothing compared with the suffering of a child. Yes, you have a right not to give. And I have a right to think less of you because of it!"
We probably won’t be invited back again, but on the bright side my fella thinks that was a good outcome!
*I admit I didn’t actually call him an utter plank. I did, however, think it.
** I didn’t say that out loud either. And, yes, I am ashamed of myself for thinking bad thoughts.
Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change