Excessive fundraising efforts could lead to ‘compassion fatigue’

May 24, 2011

By Iman Baghai

Every week it feels like there is a new disaster, a new cause or a new something for which someone is fundraising.

By Iman Baghai

It doesn’t take much to see how active our communities are in supporting various causes. Last year in one month at the Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus (now Pacific Cascade Middle School), there were more than five different fundraisers vying for my pocket. At Issaquah High School, there are some weeks during lunch when at least two people are coming to my table asking for money for various causes.

Has all of this fundraising made people immune to bad news and bypass causes that normally would grasp our hearts? Or is it a matter of timing? For example, the Japan earthquake grasped the world’s attention and triggered fundraising campaigns left and right. However, the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history were overlooked in favor of the royal wedding, Osama bin Laden’s death and Donald Trump’s formerly ambitious presidential campaign.

Is it disturbing that our hearts seem to follow the media, though the media does sometime support catastrophes. Because of the Internet, we are becoming more aware of the devastation and needs of the world around us. Granted, as we talk with one another, each issue garners less of our attention as we become immune to new issues and disasters; what was once eye-opening and shocking has become ordinary and dismissive.

Perhaps this isn’t a problem. Perhaps although we have become immune, we are unconsciously more compassionate. Obviously, with the plethora of fundraisers that occur, more money is being raised for a wider range of causes. With the development of the wired world, we are donating through text messaging (something that five years ago was absurd), which came out of out of the Haiti disaster that raised more than $20 million through social media in the first several days of fundraising.

Now, it is as if every time the radio or the TV is on someone is telling me to text something in order to donate to a cause. My ability to dismiss such calls demonstrates how I have become compassion fatigued.

We can donate passively. We are able to support our peers by going out of the way and finding effective ways of fundraising that don’t disrupt our lives. Text messaging, creative T-shirts and the sale of small items are all ways in which our day-to-day lives are being touched by fundraising. This may sound absurd but although many of us suffer from compassion fatigue we are fundraising more effectively, more collectively and more efficiently than before.

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