Raising awareness of a charity is unquestionably a positive thing to do. Charities are good causes, but there are so many of them. I don't think it's possible to donate to every charity, so the choice of which ones you choose to support is a very personal one.
What seems on the outside to be a harmless dare - donate to this charity, or dump a bucket of ice water over your head (most people are apparently doing both) - feels almost sinister, threatening; the penalty for non-participation is at best to be branded a poor-sport, or at worst as uncharitable and selfish. "Why won't you give to charity?"
Peer pressure is powerful. I try to resist it whenever possible, because I want to make my own decisions. When people attempt to influence me, my instinct is to push back - I want to make my own decision, but you've selfishly imposed yours on me. Now what do I do? I might have chosen the same path, but I don't want to be seen as weak-willed, or susceptible to future manipulation.
When someone tells me what to do, I feel immediate resentment; that decision will never be truly mine again.
So I'm in that position right now. I've been nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by my brother, Gavin.
Sorry Gav, I refuse.
I'm not refusing because I can't handle pouring cold water over my head, can't afford it, or think that ALS (Motor Neurone Disease as it's better known in the UK) isn't a good cause.
I'm refusing because this is stupid.
Charitable giving is up to the individual. I have direct debits set up to a couple of charities whose work I agree with. It's not that I disagree with the other charities - I'd like to give to all of them, but I can't. The government could - there are registers of all charities (by law), and the statistics exist to allocate a charitable fund in a fair way: based on need, weighted by public preference.
Why isn't that how it works? It could be collected at the same time as income tax, national insurance, and student loans. Imagine how much money charities could save on fundraising if it was centrally administered. It would be fairer - the charity that a few rich people choose to support wouldn't get a disproportionate share of the pot.
Charities benefit governments. Their existence allows people to make themselves feel good by giving money to a good cause, and tax rates can be kept low. Food banks, homeless charities, domestic violence charities, medical research charities, humanitarian relief charities - the list goes on. I can't think of a single one that shouldn't already be covered by a properly funded and administered social care system, paid for through general taxation.
Raise my income tax by 1%, 3%, 5%, 10%, whatever; I'll gladly pay it if I know that it's going to be spent on helping people who can't help themselves.
Don't tell me that I need to give money to just one more because you dumped ice water over your head, you clown.
I expect to take a fair bit of flak for this post - I should probably have just smiled and got on with it, like I was supposed to, right?
I was reading in the news that the ice bucket phenomenon has caused a £37m rise in charitable donations - great. That's a drop in the ocean compared to what's needed, though.