07 December 2012
day 7: gold coins
Christmas stockings in this house always contain gold coins, chocolate of course, and oranges or tangerines. It seems that the tradition is derived from the stories of King Wenceslas's charity to vulnerable women, the poor, the imprisoned. Ah, those wonderful chocolate coins. I once managed to use one as a kind of currency. One very wet evening when the tube was down, a bus driver refused to let me on because I didn't have the right change A woman offered to pay for me, and when we sat down, both like drowned rats, I remembered that I had bought one of those giant chocolate coins and gave that to her in exchange. Whenever I see those chocolate coins I think of her small kindness.
I've been thinking more generally about kindness and charity this week. Everyday, or so it seems, a request arrives asking me - not my partner, interestingly- to make a donation - phone calls, letters, shopping catalogues, emails, knocks on the door. I feel besieged. So I decided that I'd do a little bit of research and discovered this report. It went some way to explaining why I'm being targeted: it seems that women in my age bracket give more than any other group. Moreover, people are more likely to give if they are asked, hence the deluge. Among the still relatively generous UK population, we older women are clearly an easier touch when it comes to marketing.
The NCVO report also explains that income from charitable giving has dropped for the last two years - I know mine has. The share of giving by cause makes interesting reading, with medical research topping the list, followed closely by giving to hospitals/ hospices and children's charities following closely behind; a higher percentage is donated to animal charities than charities for the disabled. I also discovered that, unsurprisingly, we are more likely to give to charities which have some personal resonance for us. Looking elsewhere I found information on the salaries of charity CEOs and wondered whether some of those six figure salaries were justified.
All this made me feel less guilty about binning those marketing letters and giving cold callers and chuggers the brush-off. I still have no idea what is a reasonable amount* to give to charity even though I do have a rough budget for direct debits to charities, giving on an ad-hoc basis, sponsoring friends and family, and one-off gifts. And maybe I should be spending more of my gold coins or time on local causes that might not be cuddly and pretty rather than wearing a Christmas jumper. Or should I do both?
It's doing my head in. What do you think?
* if I stuck to the median for my gender and age, it's £180 a year cash, but that doesn't take into account volunteering time