Heather Keith Freeman (jnanacandra) wrote,
Heather Keith Freeman

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(No, I'm not doing Blogathon... you didn't miss anything. lordandrei is, though. It's proved fairly entertaining so far, and I'm sure will get more so as the day wears on.)

I struggle with the motivational psychology of [$thing]athons, whether it be a 5k run or a blogathon or - whatever, there are some truly weird ones out there.

I understand it from the [$thing]er's side. You want to support $X, but you don't have the money yourself, so you do what you can do, whether it be run or write or hop on one foot while lassoing a llama, and try to find some mechanism of turning that into money for $X.

(Oh dear. That just made me ponder something I could actually do for next year's blogathon if I were so moved. If I can figure out this damned motivational conundrum.)

What I don't understand is how it makes sense for people to donate money to sponsor someone if they weren't going to do it otherwise. I know they *do* do it, I see them doing it - hell, *I've* done it. I just don't understand *why* it works.

And until I understand why, I'm going to go through this dilemma every blogathon.

Everyone when pitching these things says "it doesn't matter how much you can donate, just that you do - it adds up, really!" But I still find myself caught up in how much is the right amount, how much I can really afford, and if I'm giving money to this person, why am I not giving money to these other people over there?

Hm - unspoken assumption I just realized. For some reason when a "good cause" is involved, I feel like I "should" give as much as I comfortably can, at the *least*. If I don't give as much as I can, then it becomes a judgement on how good the cause is, or I'm being a selfish cad, or other people will judge my financial situation or my ethics based on the amount of the donation. It then becomes easier not to give at all and say "it's not personal, I just don't do this sort of thing."

(This is also ignoring the entire issue of giving $25 to an organization that then pisses several times your donation away in persistent pleadings for more funds over the next few years... fortunately that generally doesn't happen with Blogathon, but it was my first formative experience with giving to charity and is probably coloring my perception of the entire issue.)

Some bloggers get around the motivational issue by offering additional incentives, thus making the value of your purchase tangible. For a donation is a purchase, it's just that what you get is warm fuzzies for doing "a good thing", and whatever social currency may come from being able to say that you did "a good thing".

Especially under the weight of all this, the worthiness of the actual cause becomes a meaningless variable, especially since there are hundreds more worthy causes than I would possibly have money to support. It becomes the same sort of decision that paralyzes me when I have to decide whether to do dishes or laundry or sweeping first and so end up doing none of it.

I have to wonder if the most valuable part of fundraising in this manner is the part that you don't have to pay for - the awareness-raising and name recognition that the charitable organizations get. Goodness knows I'm far more aware of RAINN, BARCC, and The Heifer Project than I was a few years ago, and of the sort of work they do - which in turn means I may refer people their way if they need their services, and have the inspiration of knowing that there are organizations doing their sort of work and the resultant boost to my faith in humanity, which is literally priceless.

And yet I'm usually not willing to give money for it? Hm. But I literally can't give the amount of money I know it's worth, and get so stymied by the decision of how much is closest to the right amount that I do nothing.

Are these the unique tanglings of my odd brain, or does anyone else go through these torturous lack-of-rationalizations?

Lest it be unclear, I do want to support these sorts of organizations, and do believe in the work they do. But I feel like I can't support any unless I support all of them, which I can't do. And that also makes no sense. (Note to self: this tangent-connects nicely to the book The Paradox of Choice, which I've been meaning to post about for ages now - on how too many choices forces the brain give up and choose nothing, because the opportunity cost is too high.)

Anyway, if you made it through all of that, congratulations. And if you feel so moved, go sponsor lordandrei, blogging for Planned Parenthood, and shadesong, blogging for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
Tags: blogathon, brains, psychology, sociology

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