I’m not really one for charity balls and glitterati fundraisers but when somebody invited me to an event in aid of the Hunar Foundation, I couldn’t refuse as I had heard such positive things about their work.
The foundation is basically made up of technical institutes which aim to provide skills and certification to young Pakistanis, thus making them immediately employable. The vocational training ranges from things like plumbing and electrical work to IT skills to beauty therapy.
At the event the foundation’s CEO, Syed Mehdi Hasan, spoke about the work they do, what their future plans are and how most of the training they provide is now in partnership with various guilds and hence internationally recognised. Over dinner, later, he also chatted with us and told us how most of the founders of Hunar were the same people who had worked to set up TCF (The Citizens Foundation) schools. At some point, these people realised they were helping to educate a lot of young people but this education alone was not really helping the youngsters to get employment — what they needed was a particular skill set to be employable, hence the idea of providing vocational training took root.
Hunar seems to be doing an amazing job but I wonder if I couldn’t have learnt all of this without attending an expensive socialite dinner. Most charities will tell you this model of fundraising is extremely effective because not only does the sale of guest invitations and entire tables provide excellent revenue, but the event also provides an opportunity for power networking. So, not only do you raise a lot of money, you also get to have ‘everybody who’s anybody’ feel like they are all part of it. And in the bargain, everybody dresses up and has a fine night out.
So this model of fundraising works. Not just in Pakistan but also in the diaspora, where we have seen the SKMT fundraising drive, for example, do particularly well through such social events and dinner parties. It works, but I still have problem with this scenario where rich people and large companies spend lots of money in the name of a charity but also to have a glittering evening out.
I know it’s all for a good cause but I somehow find it slightly distasteful that money cannot be pledged to the charity without the precondition of a ball or gala dinner. I mean, if you want to donate to a good cause then why is it necessary for you to have a big party for yourself? Why is it necessary to dress up in formal clothes and black tie? Why not donate the money you spent on getting ready for the event (those blow dries, mani-pedis, facials, new clothes, etc) to the charity itself? Possibly this is not as much fun as getting ready for a ball, having lovely things auctioned at the event and having an evening out, but it might feel a lot less vulgar than the let’s-have-a-fancy-party-so-the-money-goes-to-the-charity process.
Yes, the value of getting people together for a common cause cannot be underestimated, but it might feel a lot more dignified if we could do this without throwing ourselves a party. What might be better would be a get-together at one of the charity’s actual sites, where all supporters get a chance to volunteer and work with the trainees as well as to socialise with each other. Or, how about a more democratic and awami event: something like a fair or mela?
Yes, I do understand that charity ball model of fundraising is effective. But it is also slightly distasteful. As we develop skills, let’s use some skills to be creative about how we raise funds…