"The need is constant! The gratification is instant!
The [local place] Blood Drive is coming!"
said the email I received this morning. Now, maybe I'm just being antagonistic but the second sentence of the tagline about instant gratification really bothers me. It makes me sad and a little upset to see personal gain trumpeted as a reason for being charitable. Yes, they mention the need, but fulfillment of the need is not the motivation they promote. It ought to be. If you're going to give blood the point is that you're doing it to help those that need blood not for some material gain of your own.
Why do I think this is important? Because promoting charity via material (or other worldly) gains for the giver cheapens the charity. To really prove this point would require a long moral-theological tangent but this isn't the place for that. This idea is something we understand implicitly but don't often thing about formally:
Giving for personal gain is lesser charity because it isn't selfless.
There are two other examples that illustrate this:
I was sitting in on a class once at a public university. A girl a few seats over kept going on about the event the previous night that raised a few hundred dollars for charity via a cover charge on a party where a sizable number of people got really drunk. I am of course a biased observer but by her telling it seemed to me a flimsy way to not feel so bad about drinking way too much. (it was 10:30am and by her own admission she was still drunk.)
This summer I saw many boys wearing "I [heart] B00BIES" bracelets/shirts etc... They idealogically abuse what their trying to save. Usually things worth saving are worth respect. Also, as someone else pointed out to me, 'Aren't we trying to save the whole person and not just the body part?' I know that purchase of those things helps fund research but it is fundraising tainted by an abuse of sexuality.
In all the examples I've given there are charitable ends in mind. I'm not denying that. But I am saying that their charity has been tainted, in various degrees, by the means and ways they go about that charity.
So, am I saying to not give blood? No. Give blood. It is a necessary thing. But do it for the right reason.
And let them keep their t-shirt. You're never going to wear that cheap thing anyways.