I lost my virginity to a Krispy Kreme donut the other day. I ate my first one, that is (disappointed? Head over to Sex on Thursday). My hometown of Rochester is a Dunkin’ Donuts stronghold, so the pastry was a distant dream of mine only delivered by friends who ventured to the Krispy Kreme Scranton branch hours away. Fast forward three days, a dozen donuts and 20 bucks shelled out to the donut pimps, and I know now that a greater truth about this philanthropy comes unglazed. What is missing from our donate-eat-forget loop is that each fresh batch of Krispy Kreme represents the suffering of the final recipients of our contribution. What is missing from our fundraising model based on incoming money is outgoing knowledge.
No longer can we walk through an atrium without a club booth imploring us to “treat yo self” as they channel their inner Parks and Recreation Tom and Donna. On the receiving end, we consumers donate to indulge, not to reflect on the recipients of our proceeds. From my initial bite into that first, cream-filled half-dozen to licking my chocolate-glazed fingers after the third, I knew I was eating my money’s worth — but clearly not because I was supporting charitable groups in the process. In fact, beyond the distinct Venmo username for each campus club, the different causes felt arbitrary, and even unnecessary, as an appeal. Charity at Cornell has become too mindless and too easy. When we donate for donuts, donors become consumers and volunteers reduce to vendors: Where does the cause fit in?
At face value, the club’s profit and the satisfaction of the donor-turned-consumer is a win-win situation — and club treasurers are keenly aware of this. Given that these proceeds go to charity, the fundraising prowess of the clubs and their respective causes undoubtedly thrive, but little can be said for the actual awareness raised for each cause. Our fundraising scene equates activism with revenue, when in reality, one comes at the expense of the other. When clubs morf their activism to suit a consumerist market of 20,000 Cornellians, charity becomes no more than another business model that targets sweet-toothed suckers like yours truly. Clubs quickly lose sight of their original cause as the money flows in, and us donors are trained to believe that charity is supposed to be convenient and self-serving.
When I “donated,” I only recall that the proceeds were Venmoed the first time to tumor research and the third time to Haiti, but remember little else. I walked up to the table because of the boxed delights and donated since they hadn’t yet run out of chocolate-glazed. I wasn’t offered a single reason beyond pastries for why I should care about one movement or another. I happily left the booth not too concerned about what I paid for beyond the immediate transaction. Charity at Cornell is dangerously convenient, as the allure of a Krispy Kreme and the like prompts no further questions. In turn, we slip out our wallets and skip a few key steps in the process. Activism is stagnant when awareness is overshadowed by a distracting treat on one end and an appealing bottom line on the other.
After my roommate’s own service club completed their fundraiser, they had paid approximately $4 for a box and had sold each dozen for $10: a 60% profit margin. At another club booth, when I pointed to a larger stack on the table and asked how much they expect to sell, they replied without hesitation, “All of them.” But each sold-out batch of donuts is no more than a club selling-out its cause; behind the impressive influx of donations lies our non-unique and ineffective awareness-raising system. Each fundraising organization loses its individuality when it, too, hooks donors through donuts. To the average Cornellian, the abuse of Krispy Kreme fundraisers blurs the lines between buying donuts and genuine passion for a cause. What on the surface appears successful has merely become a blanket technique of fundraising that encourages donations for all the wrong reasons. The integrity of campus advocacy decays as the intentions behind our donations and the cause itself grow further apart.
Though clubs themselves should do more to raise awareness beyond booth transactions, us donors suffer equally when we are trained to believe our consumerist culture can be applied to charity. No longer should we confuse baked goods as the core of a fundraiser, but rather only as the means to advocate for a bigger picture. Only once us donors reshift our focus will Cornellian charity finally transcend donuts.
Roei Dery is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dery Bar runs every other Thursday this semester.