The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Doing good for others or yourself?

College, more than any other stage of life, is a time of freedom and opportunity.

We join reputable clubs and organize charitable events. We are constantly surrounded with opportunities to give and volunteer.

I was once of the mindset that the motives behind philanthropy should not matter. If good is accomplished, if people are helped, if society benefits, the intentions are irrelevant. Generosity, whether of time, energy, or money, is still generosity. The end result is what counts. However, I have since witnessed the difference between sincere and artificial giving. 

Many people “do good” in order to improve appearances, receive reward, or alleviate some degree of moral guilt. Especially in a college atmosphere with philanthropy opportunities always available, it is easy to donate and volunteer simply to fill a résumé or meet social expectations. In these instances, these personally-beneficial results are temporary: fulfilling service hours, receiving approval from your sorority or fraternity, or just feeling like a good person. The difference between this sort of giving and an authentic investment in the charity or organization is not immediately noticeable. 

The people receiving the charity or volunteerism are not even aware of the distinction. But when it comes to making a sustainable change, intentions make all the difference.

For example, Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser and SMU’s largest annual on-campus event, achieves the level of success that it does only because of students who are honestly and emotionally invested in the cause.

They have a true passion for finding the cure for cancer. The event grows and improves each year because of students’ long-term investments. Were it characterized simply by a sense of obligation, guilt, or the desire to be viewed as a good and moral person, the event would be far less successful and remain stagnant.

This same concept can be projected onto a global scale. As Dambisa Moyo so effectively argued in Monday’s Tate Lecture, U.S. foreign aid to emerging countries is not as altruistic as many people think.

Moyo recognized that it is not uncommon for people to give to a charity without actually knowing where the money goes.

Some might argue that people are simply trusting, but I perceive it as chosen ignorance, taking the easy way out.

Were people to invest in ways beyond monetary offerings, they might discover that much of foreign aid is actually detrimental to emerging economies. A true interest in the issues and their causes would more effectively foster sustainable reform in developing countries in Africa.

As young Americans living comfortable lives and receiving incredible educations, it is natural to feel a sense of guilt and regret for the needy, the hurting, and those lacking the opportunities that we are so lucky to have.

Carelessly giving is a quick way to ease this guilt. If we donate a certain amount or volunteer a certain number of hours, then we’re exempt from feeling bad about living privileged lives.

The truth is, we do live privileged lives. That is exactly what should inspire us to do more than just the bare minimum. We have the resources, education, and ability to create sustainable change in the areas we feel passionate about. We can go beyond careless charity. We can do better than fulfill our self-centered need to feel like a good person. 

Katie Schaible is a freshman majoring in dance, international studies and human rights. 

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