By Ethan Rabidoux
P.J O’Rourke once said: “A little luck and a little government are necessary in life but only a fool trusts either of them.”
While I agree with the great American Libertarian comic, I would modify his observation accordingly: “A society that cannot distinguish between the role of charities and the role of government is both unlucky and foolish.”
Anyone who has canvassed for their pet cause has ran into the brick wall of donor fatigue. People are being tapped constantly to give. The toughest part is that almost every group, project or initiative that knocks on my door or calls my phone is noble and necessary.
We are in the midst of another fundraising drive for the United Way of Perth Huron. According to this year’s organizers, the campaign is way off its targets. Knowing the people at that wonderful organization, if anyone can close the gap it’s them, but it seems to be getting harder every year for the United Way to reach its goals.
The main reason is because charities are locked in a 24/7 battle to raise funds or perish.
I have already written in this space about food banks. I attended the Empty Bowls Event on November 7 with my fiancé to raise funds for the Stratford House of Blessing – another magnificent group that is trying desperately to keep its fingers in the local poverty dam. Food Banks Canada reports that 850,000 Canadians used food banks in the month of March alone. This is an increase of 25 percent since 2008.
As more Canadians – especially working Canadians – turn to food banks, fewer will be able to donate. Ordinary folks are being squeezed by stagnating wages, rising costs of living and a weak economy that has been battered by 30 years of poor policy decisions.
This is neither sustainable nor desirable.
In the wake of the Ottawa shooting, Canadians raised piles of money for the families of Cpl Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
As a journalist, I’ve covered events where local service clubs have raised money to buy the Perth County OPP bicycles.
Here’s the million dollar question: should the nourishment of Canadian workers, the welfare of the widows and orphans of our fallen soldiers or the proper equipping of Law Enforcement personnel be left to charity?
As governments have stepped away from adequately funding obvious essentials in society like Veterans Affairs, schools, hospitals and infrastructure (to name a few), the burden has fallen on philanthropic organizations to make up the difference. This is a challenge charitable structures were never designed to meet.
Is there a role for philanthropy in our country? Absolutely.
No offence to the teetotallers out there but I enjoy a beer from time to time. My views on charity are similar to my views on alcohol: a little bit once in a while makes life more interesting, enjoyable and relaxing, but if you need it to survive day to day you’ve got bigger problems.
Raising funds to send care packages to our soldiers in harm’s way far away is the realm of charity. Raising funds to treat the mental and physical injuries they endure while fighting for our country is squarely the role of government.
Fundraising for a class trip is the realm of charity. Fundraising so a school can buy books or fix a leaky roof is the role of government.
Buying needy children presents so they can have a Merry Christmas is charity. Making sure their working parents earn enough to put food on the table and a roof over their heads is the function of government policy.
Until our society clearly and correctly redraws the lines for the role of charities and the responsibilities of the state, mute your iPhone and turn off the front porch light because the fundraisers are going to keep on coming.