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Philanthropy on Campus: Are we genuinely helping?

By Prindle News Hound
25 Nov 2014
“Leadership” by GrowWear (via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Philanthropy is a huge part of the average DePauw student’s life. Between Greek organizations, Relay for Life, Dance Marathon, Timmy Global Health, Civic Fellows and volunteering in the Putnam County community, it’s hard to find a weekend that does not consist of some kind of philanthropic effort. While I believe these philanthropic events teach DePauw students to be active members of the community and learn to work together to achieve a goal, I don’t believe the philanthropy we promote is doing as much good as we are taught to think, or as much good as it could be doing.

One of the problems that I see with organized philanthropies on campus is that it takes away the choice of how an individual wants to participate in the larger community. Philanthropies usually have a very systematic way of operating, which is a great way of getting many people involved. However, what if an individual wants to help in a different way  than the group mandates?

Some people might feel disconnected from the philanthropy because it’s part of a larger group requirement. An individual might not know much about the issue or why his or her volunteer work matters (or even if it does). Should groups start encouraging creative ways to take part in philanthropies in which the the volunteer work is rooted in a genuine interest and understanding of the community’s needs?

The structure of large philanthropy foundations can also create guilt or pressure to donate or participate in an activity that normally you would not. If you’re required, or expected, to volunteer as part of a group activity, doesn’t this sort of detract from the definition of what volunteering is supposed to be?

Giving back to the community is something that we are taught at a young age that “good people” do. We have an idea in our mind that if we don’t volunteer in some fashion, we are seen as self-centered and unattractive morally. This fear of being labeled a “bad person” drives us to promote our philanthropic efforts to the public. An example of this would be how in Greek Recruitment many sororities and fraternities discuss their philanthropies and stress how giving back to the community is a large part of their organization. While I see the value in this, a small part of me wonders if promoting our own virtuous actions really benefits the community that we are trying to help. Are we as DePauw students too quick to jump on the philanthropic bandwagon in order to look like more moral people? Should we try to promote a more individual centered philanthropic effort where we can choose how and when we want to give? How would that look if we all stopped supporting foundations? Do we keep supporting these foundations because of how they make us look or because we actually care?

This creature of fiction allows students, community members, and Prindle Institute staff to post in a pseudo-anonymous fashion. It also makes for an awesome mascot. (Oh...and the image here belongs to the Found Animals Foundation and is licensed under the Creative Commons license CC-BY-SA 2.0)
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