What if Joe and Jessie asked you for money

by | Oct 12, 2016 | philanthropy, social issues

As you leave the office on a miserably cold night, you walk past two people asking for money on the street.

If you are the giving kind, this appears like a charitable situation.


You have enough cash in your pocket, but who do you help? Do you give money to one and not the other? Do you give them both equal amounts? How do you decide?




Suppose you know that one of them, let’s call them Joe, lives by themselves, while the other, Jessie, supports a family of 4.

Does this help you decide?




Suppose now, that after observing the situation for a few seconds, you notice that Joe has already collected $85, while Jessie only has $15. Does this help you make up your mind?


You then remember that due to societal quirks, Joe has access to a free warm meal, morning and night, while Jessie uses whatever money they collect to feed themselves and their 3 kids.   Does this help you decide?




Should it even matter what Joe and Jessie do with the money you give them? What if Joe ‘invested’ their funding at the casino convinced he’d figured out a way to beat the house, while Jessie was investing in their kids’ education?

Does this make the decision easier?




Lastly, but definitely not leastly, imagine Joe grew a patchy, if not comical moustache.

Would this change your decision?

What if he said he’d walk 10km, or do 20 push-ups for 20 days?



Deciding who to help is not always easy, but surely we can do better than to be guided by marketing campaigns and gimmicks.

Perhaps we can start by figuring out what we’re trying to do when being charitable, and then working out the best, or at least a half-decent way of achieving this.





Feature: Andy Burgess, Homeless guy on Yonge Street, CC BY 2.0

Need Money 4 Food: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9600117@N03/ (no changes made)

Money for beer: AlBErto Gottardo / Alberto Gottardo, CanIHaveABeerMan, CC BY-SA 2.0