8th Annual Qualitative/Critical Methods Conference - Critical Methods Society


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Something for nothing
  Paper presented at the 8th Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "Something for nothing"
1 May to 30 September 2002 (http://criticalmethods.org/p124.mv)
Philanthropy is big business
Karl S. Muller

Contact e-mail: karl@sos.org.za
Affiliation: SOS Children Villages



Philanthropy is big business and can be seen as an economic sector. Each charity may be viewed as a company catering to its own niche market, be that street children, hunger, HIV AIDS, unwed mothers etc. Charities may vary from single individuals doing something in their community, like a local business entrepreneur to large international charities, which may be compared to the large multinationals that dominate the business world. An example of such an international charity is SOS Kinderdorf International, which cares for orphaned and abandoned children. It is active in 400 countries and receives annual donations to the tune of 180 million Euros (Pichler, 2000). Much, like their business counterparts there is an army of construction companies, financial advisors, accountants, lawyers, auditors, psychologists, researchers, and various other consultants catering to the needs of charities. Further, charities have also ventured into cyberspace. Not only do charities have their own websites, through which they disseminate information and fundraise, but there are also web-based charities and websites that specialise in supporting charities. Some of these are dedicated to teaching individuals how to start a charity, others are dedicated to getting charities to network with each other, and still other sites are dedicated to getting donors and charities to meet.

There is, thus, an entire industry whose basis for existence is individuals donating their money to charities. The question has to be asked, "Who is getting something for nothing?"

This paper does not seek to undermine the philanthropic philosophy of charitable donations; surely giving to help others is a good thing. Rather, it seeks to problematise the notion that charity is "something for nothing." Clearly there is an economic sector that depends solely on charitable donations. The central areas of interest are, what are the personal, interpersonal and social "costs" and "profits" associated with charitable giving and who is really getting "something for nothing," the donor's intended benefactor or this charitable economic sector?
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