Should Act of Charity be Unconditional?

The question is whether such NGOs should feel disappointed or they should blame themselves for launching welfare activities without adequate funds and proper plans for sourcing funds.

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Photo Credit: Katt Yukawa/ Unsplash

Religious scriptures , mythological stories and speeches and writings of scholars advocate that love and compassion for others  should be the central focus of the thought process of everyone. It is said that development of such mindset is the  sure way of leading life process  with peace and tranquility. Obviously, such mindset would result in the regular  practice of extending support to  the needy persons, animals and creatures  in whatever way possible.

There are number of theories with regard to the charity concept such as  that the person involving himself or herself in charity activity should not have   personal motives and should not derive any benefits from the act of charity.  Further, it is also said that act of charity need not be at the cost of self denial  except in   extreme scenario  and should be practiced  only to the extent possible  after satisfying one’s requirements. The third view is  that “reckless charity”  to all and sundry  without scrutiny of the  genuine needs of the recipients is not appropriate.    There is also another view that the charity act towards   any cause should not result in negative impact on others or in the society.

Dependent mindset :

In number of  cases, the act of charity   sometimes encourage dependent mindset or “beggar attitude” amongst the recipients , who could think that they can” earn their needs” by   actively seeking donation and  support from kind hearted persons.

In recent times, with high  public discourse about the importance of charity, some people involve themselves in some  pursuits  such as costly education or treatment in expensive hospitals  beyond their affordability , even when they know that there is   no feasibility of making both ends meet.  In other words, such people hope and expect that they can plead for support . In the process , they  run from pillar to post to identify donors  and  request for funds , even risking some humiliating experience.

Such attitude  is negative, create  laziness  and  kill feeling of self respect and prevent the persons   from putting forth hard and sustained efforts and work to earn their needs honourably.

Support sought by voluntary bodies

There are several non government organisations   (NGOs) , which appear to be thousands in number all over India, ,  who undertake some welfare functions voluntarily and plead for donation publicly . Most of such organisations do not have enough  resources to carry out their intended social activities and take for granted that they would be able to get donations  from one source or the other  from India or abroad. There are also rumours that some of these NGOs even appoint agents to collect donations for their welfare programme and provide commission to the agents  for the services rendered.

Another disturbing issue is that some  NGOs even face accusation of diverting the donation money for purposes other than for  which  the donation is intended. 

As the source of fund  is not ensured for carrying out welfare activities, several NGOs   are facing difficult conditions when donations do not arrive as per their expectations and are even forced to curtail their development programmes.

The question is whether such NGOs should feel disappointed or they should blame themselves for launching welfare activities without adequate funds and proper plans for sourcing funds.

Possibly,   their expectations on unconditional charity from others,   who may  be known or unknown, may be misplaced.

Charity dinner :

What is known as “charity dinners”  are organized and such events   take place  in luxurious  settings , when a  well known celebrity   such as film actor would be invited and may be paid  lumpsum “honorarium”  and wealthy people would be invited to attend the dinner by paying hefty charges. There would be good response  from  the invitees , considering the opportunity to interact  with the celebrity .  The participants   in the event  often do so  for their own benefits .

Surplus collections   from the event   would be provided to the voluntary bodies or deprived persons, which  is incidental.

Most probably  ,neither in the mind of the celebrity nor in the minds of the participants , there would   be any thought about the plight of the deprived persons.  There is no  spirit of charity here.

Feeding stray dogs on the streets

One of the big problems in India today are the roaming of the homeless stray dogs  on the streets, which are estimated to be around 55 million in number. Some times,  such stray dogs    have become a safety threat for passers by on the streets  and some people including children have been wounded or even killed due to dog bites.

However, many compassionate minded people feed these  street dogs occasionally or as a matter of routine  everyday.  . There is criticism now about feeding the stray dogs , which are multiplying in number  and are  becoming  a threat for   the safety of the passers by.

Obviously, the government policy with regard to management of the street dogs menace are uncertain and confusing and not improving the ground situation with regard to street dog attacks.

This scenario  make some people  wonder whether the act of feeding stray dogs as  a matter of charity should be  considered as  appropriate. This is particularly so,  since those who feed the street dogs do not take care of them partly or fully and do not make any effort  to house them in proper  conditions.  Obviously, their charity act   has limits  and  cannot be unconditional.

Charity should not be unconditional

There is no doubt that the act of charity is a noble and admirable concept. But, the concept would be diluted or even the objectives would be  defeated ,if charity would be viewed as an unconditional concept.

Act of charity  should not lead to a situation where it would reach lazy persons  or those without self respect  or those who could misuse the donation amount . Then , it would mean that act of charity has lost it’s direction  and purpose.

In Tamil language , there is a saying which means that donation should be extended only after careful study of the need of the recipient  and the  recipient should strictly deserve it  and charity should not be unconditional.


N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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