Charity Emails-Help Or Hoax?

“X organization will donate 10 cents to Y charity for every time this email is forwarded.”
“Click a button on X website and help fund a mammogram for women in need.”
“Play a word game to help people in need. For every right answer, Z sponsors will donate to A charity.”
“'Like' this page to help a little boy in China with cancer.”

We've all seen them. It seems that a day can't go by without at least one “plea for help” appearing in our inboxes. Donate to save kids with cancer. Repost this picture or status message to show your support for animals in need/women in war-torn countries/veterans/ etc, with or without promises to help a particular charity. As much as we all want to feel that we're doing something good in the world, how much will these messages really help? What, if anything, happens when we forward/click/play?

Any time you see an email that claims to donate money to a cause for every time it is forwarded, ignore it. At this time, there is no such thing as an “email tracking program”. Even if there were, there's nothing saying that the cause is real or, if it is, whether it is still going on. As for causes such as “this kid is sick/missing” or a particular fundraising drive, the objective has often been met long before the emails stop going out. Don't get me wrong-sometimes these emails raise awareness about a real problem and inspire others to action. The person who is sending you these messages means well and probably wouldn't have passed it on if they didn't think it would do some good. It's just that message tracking programs are yet to be invented, so any benefit that comes from them will be indirect. That, and sometimes the stories are inspirational.

As for whether or not “liking” a page will donate to someone's care-it's true that Facebook has the technology to track the number of “likes” a page gets, but that doesn't mean that anything will be done to help whatever cause is being promoted. It's most likely a ruse to get people to like someone's Facebook page and nothing more. The same thing goes with 'shares'. That doesn't necessarily mean that your support has gone unnoticed or that someone else won't be inspired to help. Also, sometimes the plea is real. Something good can come of it, but don't feel pressured to pass something on. The implications that someone who doesn't “pass it on” doesn't care/believe in God/whatever that are often tacked onto the end of such pleas don't mean anything. There's a difference between being ashamed (often said about the ones involving Jesus) and not wanting to participate in a chain letter.

As for the messages about clicking a button or playing a game at a particular website benefitting charity, there are some truth to these claims. The Hunger Site foundation and its many related sites operate on the idea that, for every person who visits their site and clicks a button, the sponsors that advertise on that site will donate something (exactly what varies by site) toward whatever cause is being promoted. The games on the website (set up by the UN World Food Programme) are similar in that sponsors have pledged to donate for every correct answer to quizzes in a number of different subjects. This is vastly different from the 'email forwarding' messages for the same causes because, while it is not yet possible to track how many times a particular message has been sent, it is possible to track how many people have visited your website. To help even more, most of these sites have an online store that offers a portion of the proceeds (exactly how much varies by site) toward the cause being promoted. I've bought from these stores and I can tell you that, even if the portion is very small, the goods are of a very high quality and are usually something you can't get anywhere else. If nothing else, you'll come out with a great sushi set!

If you want to “vet” a story you've heard or want to give the person who sent it to you a “heads-up”, visit and If you're unsure about a charity mentioned in a message or on a website, visit

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