ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Monday, December 19, 2011 - 3:55pm

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator,
ASU Lodestar Center

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time."
— Charles Dickens
, A Christmas Carol

I recently joined a book club. The book for this month is, not surprisingly, Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. I have read it before and seen several adaptations for the screen and stage. But, the wonderful thing about the literary arts is that they can teach you new things with each reading.

As I was riding home from work the other day on the light-rail, I started reading this book. I was surprised at how I had never realized how closely the text relates to the nonprofit sector. The epigraph, included above, really surprised me when I read it because I had never, despite working in the nonprofit sector for over three years, thought of this section as distinctly "nonprofit" in nature.

As I read, I was impressed by the optimism and goodness of the two gentlemen taking up a collection for the poor. They provide a perfect counter-point to Ebenezer Scrooge, who is the consummate villain. He is bitter, cold, and unfeeling.

One of the visiting gentlemen tries to appeal to Scrooge's presumed generosity by remarking that "Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts. ... A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

Of course, Scrooge replies that he is not willing to contribute anything and pointedly asks if the oppressive government programs intended to alleviate poverty have stopped functioning, to which his visitor replies that many would rather die than participate in such demeaning and often exploitative programs.

"If they would rather die," Scrooge famously replies, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

I was really affected by Dickens' vivid descriptions and pointed dialogue. I began to take a quick inventory of my own life as I continued reading. "Do I ever think or act like Scrooge?" I asked. I am ashamed to admit that, indeed, I have spent far too many hours and even days nursing a grudge, withholding praise or love, and keeping myself emotionally distant from those around me. More apropos to the specific scene in the quoted text, I recently had been personally asked to give to a couple of noble causes, and I had internally grumbled about it. Is my grumbling so much different from Scrooge's vitriolic tirades?

I've been thinking about charitable donations ever since my train-ride home that night, and I came to some conclusions. I'm going to give more to noble causes this year. While I am certainly not wealthy, I have much more than many people in this world. I can afford to give something. The wonderful thing about technology is that if we all give a little, even our pennies and nickels can add up to thousands of dollars.

So, as this year comes to a close, and a new year is soon to begin, I hope that we can all reassess our commitment to our fellow men and women. This is a season of giving, of hope, and of renewal. If we were all to commit to give even a few dollars more than we otherwise might have, we can make a big difference.

I invite you to join me and pick a charity or cause that you are passionate about and do something to help. If you can't afford to donate money, you can almost always donate time or make in-kind contributions.

Let's resolve not to be Scrooges this year, but rather spread warmth and happiness with our loved ones, friends, and those who need it the most.

Travis Butterfield is a Project Coordinator, Marketing & Communications at the ASU Lodestar Center. He has been with the Center for over three years and enjoys working with the websites and doing graphic design/marketing projects. He is currently going back to school for a second bachelor's degree, this time in Graphic Information Technology. He enjoys reading nerdy books, eating PEZ, and inserting movie quotes into everyday conversation.

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Great article, Travis. While watching a Muppet Christmas Carol (yes, I know, not quite the same as actually reading Dickens) the scene with Bunsen and Beaker (the two gentlemen requesting donations) stood out to me as well. My observation was, they didn't ask Scrooge if he wanted to make a donation, they just assumed that he would. I thought, how presumptuous of them. Your blog has given me something to think about. When I'm asked at the fast food drive-thru if I want to donate $1 to St. Jude's, or some other worthy foundation, I actually feel a little bothered; I realized I am every bit as much of a scrooge as the next guy. I think it's this time of year and tales such as a Christmas Carol that really help us realize that and we act on making the right change and contributing. My hope is that we can make it last all year, rather than just during this season.

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