Thursday, July 2, 2015

Shaming in the Name of Donation

The guiding principle behind the collection of donation is to provide much needed support and services to the underprivileged communities in the world. Under this guiding principle, Tibetans in exile thrived and succeeded in preserving their culture, religion and identity - largely through the unwavering support of foreign donors.

After more than six decades of living in exile - in addition to preserving culture, religion and identity, - Tibetans have performed exceptionally well in securing their economic stability as well as excelling in the art of making monies. This economic growth, in one way or other, helped to reinvent the principle of donation which now focuses on the importance of "self contribution" and "self sustainability."

In these days, many depend on seeking donation for projects whether it is for charities or rebuilding or contribution to their Alma Mater from their own Tibetan community members. For instance, you will witness many individuals walking with a booklet to seek donation at most community events.  However, the problem now is too many donation seekers - few frauds, some genuine and many suspicious.

Due to the increasing reliance on asking money from others, people seeking donation has become a nuisance, especially in Tibetan settlements in India. There are people asking for donation in the guise of religious events or developments; medical support for ailing patient; funds for political activities; and many more. Donation is looked up as a solution for all financial problems in the society.

However, the dilemma now is: donation is no more an option. It's an unspoken compulsion. If you don't give, you are considered stingy, evil, people with less empathy or someone who is less Tibetan. And if you give less, you will be shamed publicly on social media via a list of donors (see the picture for one such example).

Its important to understand that every individual has a different financial status and based on their income, people contribute.

Moreover, donation should be voluntary and private. For instance, with your name as one of the donor in the list, it will be extremely hard to secure a visa to go to Tibet.  I now understand why many Tibetans from Tibet shy away from Tibetan community events which are largely dictated by Tibetans from India and Nepal.

Also, when a list of donors is shared, it is generally not listed in the order of "receipt number." Instead, the list is sorted in a descending order based on the donation amount which directly or indirectly effects the individual who are not in a good financial position to pay high donation amount or who could not pay because of undue circumstances such as non availability of cash at the time. If you closely look at the picture, how would you feel if you are the serial number 79 showing $5 as donation amount on your NAME.  This list will be viewed by everyone including your own friends and relatives around the globe.  You be the judge here.

Discussion and Recommendation

Tibetans should stop donating out of peer pressure, status pressure or identity pressure. It's better to not give than give something that puts you to shame.

Know that when you give donation to individual or unregistered organization, ask many questions such as the purpose, operational cost/percentage, utilization report, transparency, confidentiality and others.  If the donation seeker is a registered non-profit organization, ask for organizational receipt for your donation.  Remember, in most cases, you can use these donation receipts to avail tax credits.

A good practice of donation would be to have an "open box" where everyone puts in whatever money they can afford or available at the time. When you open the donation box, there should be more than one person to count the total donation amount.  Share this total donation amount and "utilization report" on the social media networks.  Doing this will harm "no one." It will help keep the required transparency too.

On a final note, Tibetans should not be good only at seeking donation or funds for their project. Tibetan organization registered in the name of Non-Profit Organization should write proposal for city, state, federal and foundation grants.

I insist that Tibetans cannot be a group of lifetime beggars: initially we begged from foreigners and now we are begging from our own community members.  There are a number of other avenues to generate income.  Tibetans need to think smart and move away from this repeating act of seeking donation for all purposes.


  1. The act of posting the names isn't about shaming the donors but rather to give a sense of accountability. Donors have, and therefore should, use the right to omit their names from the list in case they want to.

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