OPINION: Donating to charity should make us feel good, not bad

Ruth's son Raffie with his nursery teacher and owner Andrew Didwell 

Ruth's son Raffie with his nursery teacher and Treetops co-owner Andrew Didwell, who will be giving generously to Children In Need - Credit: Submitted

It’s tough times financially for a lot of people at the moment.

Pandemic scars and a downturn in the economy have ensured more people than ever before have been feeling the pinch.

There are more families using food banks, more people on the bread line and more living hand to mouth in a way that many were not a few years ago.

The work of charities like Children in Need, who pledge to help children of disadvantage, be that through illness, disability, distress, trauma or poverty, have never been more required.

Unfortunately, they too of course, know that there is less money to go around meaning their fund-raising hits a Catch 22.

The children they support are growing in number, while making those much-needed donations is simply not possible for lots, even when previously they have always given.

We shouldn’t feel bad if, at the moment, donating to charities has had to go on the back burner for a bit. No one should be made to feel like it’s a stick with which they are being beaten because no good-hearted, kind person and no charity themselves would judge, if right now, charity has to begin at home.

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I’ll never forget an email I once had from my eldest son’s school regarding charity donations.

I was so gobsmacked I asked for clarification on the wording.

I simply couldn’t believe the sheer unpleasantness which seemed the antithesis of what charities stand for and yet the clarification came to state: school would be having a non-school uniform day for charity, but, if children didn’t donate £1, they were asked to come in uniform as normal and could not join in.

The word they used for the donation was that it was mandatory.

It felt very divisive and almost like the free school dinner line, a long-ago abolished segregation of those who had enough money to pay for lunch, and those who did not, with a clear visual representation of who was in which camp.

I was also concerned that they had set a minimum on how much the donation had to be. Surely collecting 50 pence, if someone can only afford 50 pence, is better than dictating they donate double that, potentially sacrificing too much for their own family?

I was so aghast about this attitude that at the time I contacted the charity in question to ask, did they approve?

Of course, they did not, they felt very strongly that this wording went against everything their charity, Save the Children, stood for and I feel absolutely certain other charities would stand together on that.

We can’t be coerced, forced or directed into giving a donation.

And we shouldn’t, absolutely, ever be made to feel badly when we are not in a position to give.

The word donation means making a gift and we do that at our own free will. It’s lovely to make gifts, it’s wonderful to donate but when perhaps a family might be living hand to mouth, a family who may have previously been in a position to make that donation, it could find them choosing between giving away or having something to eat in the evening.

No charity in the world would want to deprive one child to give to another.

It's on my mind this week especially because on Friday it will be the BBC’s Children in Need yearly fundraiser show.

This is a charity who without doubt do immense greatness for children in the UK, a charity who need and deserve support and from its humble beginnings on the radio in 1927, to today’s all evening show, celebrated and supported by celebrities, sports stars and notable names as well as the general public, it is a stalwart on the calendar raising much needed funds for their valuable resource.

Over the years, through wars, recessions and beyond, they have kept going, kept driving and kept asking us for, when we can, just a little something.

But I know they’d not want to bully anyone into feeling that they must.

It is because they are needed more than ever before and because of the exceptional work they do, supporting children in the UK, that I feel very strongly a need to support this charity where I can. I don’t have untold pounds to gift, but I do have enough to make a donation. I am fortunate to be in that position I know.

Children in Need still raised a phenomenal £37 million on the night last year. Mid pandemic and mid uncertainty, proving people are always generous when they can be. No pressure necessary.

In the past 12 months that money has been spent in all kinds of good ways ensuring children in the United Kingdom are safe, happy and secure, so that they can reach their full potential. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to donate right now, those pennies are so needed.

By contrast to wording I’ve received around charity donations from my son's Jimmy’s school, my younger son Raffie’s nursery have it just right.

They are holding a colouring competition, pyjama day and of course, like most schools and nurseries, are running collections for Children in Need.

The difference is that there is no expectation. They ask that you only give, if you can and what’s more, owners Shane and Andrew Didwell, have promised to match, penny for penny, all the money they raise throughout their three nursery provisions.

They run Treetops nurseries in Mulbarton, Hethersett and Easton and have matched their nursery collected donations for Children in Need for the last few years.

Their wording, their offering and their generosity speaks volumes about how kind they are as people and in turn it makes me want to donate more too.

If you’re close to one of their settings and see their charity box jangling then it might be worth chucking in whatever you can knowing they will double it. Aren’t they great!

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk

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