The Good Samaritan Problem

The lady asked, “What is your full name?”

I said, “Bhavin Jankharia.”

Please tell me your maiden name.”

That’s when I blew and told the lady on the phone that I wanted to with­draw my dona­tion to her char­ity, ABC.

To rewind! A month ago, KS rang the bell on a Sun­day evening. I opened the door and saw a tired young man earnestly mak­ing a pitch for ABC, a char­ity. He was a man­age­ment stu­dent from Khalsa Col­lege, spend­ing New Year’s Eve week going door-to-door try­ing to raise funds for ABC.

Some­thing about his earnest­ness was appeal­ing and I promised him a dona­tion. He then brought out a long, com­pli­cated form that made my heart sink. I told him I would donate online and let him know once done.

That was a big mistake!

After I fin­ished the online dona­tion the same evening, I texted him and assumed that the acknowl­edg­ment and thank you email I had received from ABC would be the last I would hear from them. That is how oth­ers like Hip­pocam­pus, Akshaya Patra and World Vision func­tion – they follow-up only on email, if at all.

A day later there were fran­tic calls from KS say­ing he wanted some more infor­ma­tion includ­ing my PAN details. I intro­duced him to my sec­re­tary, but he didn’t seem to under­stand and on a work­ing day when there was no one but my daugh­ter at home, he landed up again.

I freaked out.

Finally when I thought this was all sorted out, I received a call from ABC’s land­line. My sec­re­tary returned the call. Some­one from ABC wanted to thank me. I sent a mes­sage back acknowl­edg­ing the thank you.

ABC con­tin­ued to call once a day for three con­sec­u­tive days. I was busy each time and diverted the call to voice mail, but no one left a voice mail. Four days ago, I finally picked up. The lady imme­di­ately started ask­ing me a bunch of ques­tions say­ing she needed more infor­ma­tion includ­ing my PAN details. I told her the infor­ma­tion had been sent. That’s when she asked me about my “maiden name”.

I have always been uncom­fort­able donat­ing to char­i­ties offline because of the paper­work and sim­i­lar issues involved. Online dona­tions are a lovely way of remain­ing anony­mous to the extent pos­si­ble, with min­i­mal paper­work and effort. And allow­ing recur­ring charges on the credit card elim­i­nates the need for the char­ity to send reminders and for the donor to remem­ber to donate.

ABC and KS have been doing every­thing in their power to make this as dif­fi­cult for me as possible.

This is also the rea­son why peo­ple don’t stop on the road to help some­one who needs atten­tion. Things don’t end with the good deed. The Good Samar­i­tan often has to waste more time and energy with legal paper­work, vis­its to the police sta­tion and some­times even court dates. And often those you have helped embar­rass­ingly also want to spend time with you to thank you.

I made a small five-figure dona­tion. Filled up what­ever form there was online. That should have been the end of it. At the most, as Akshaya Patra does, there could have been one follow-up call to thank me, with the name and num­ber of the call­ing per­son clearly men­tioned in the voice-mail, in case I wanted to get back.

Long, com­pli­cated paper forms, hound­ing a donor with calls, ask­ing for my “maiden name”…are guar­an­teed ways of turn­ing a donor away, which ABC has man­aged to do really, really well.

Which is just such a shame!


  • Saurabh Natu wrote:

    I have few com­ments–
    1. This hap­pens also on some online shop­ping sites. There are few like Flip­kart which under­stand Indi­ans and there are dif­fi­cult like EBay. Try to sell some­thing on EBay, it’s more dif­fi­cult.
    2. Many char­i­ties are using call cen­ters. Now you donate with one, the oth­ers will call you. I have expe­ri­enced it. From CRY to other unknown char­i­ties, how did my num­ber go, with tele­caller men­tion­ing that sir you have donated to CRY so why not lis­ten to us.
    3. Your arti­cle used to come ear­lier before Mir­ror in the morn­ing. Now it’s on the evening. Why?

  • Vishwanathan wrote:

    Very nice arti­cle. With rig­or­ous rules & reg­u­la­tions peo­ple will not donate easily.

  • M R Sundaram wrote:

    I feel strongly about data­base shared by vol­un­tary organ­i­sa­tions! Won­der how they man­age to get the info! The very idea of help­ing the needy fades out and you are left won­der­ing why you gave it at all!

  • Jayaram, M wrote:

    Well, BJ (if I may address you like that .. ) — I think there is a cou­plet by Kabir which basi­cally said that one should not enquire about a person’s name n’ all that : at the first meet­ing ?
    We have been over­run by — mar­ket­ing — and per­haps a Ger­manic desire to cross the t’s & dot the i’s — we are very bad at doc­u­men­ta­tion; our­selves?
    How­ever — we should not forgo our Samar­i­tan instincts if they are called for — our State & (ALL) its offi­cials con­tinue to need a edu­ca­tion on how to treat them !!


    M J

  • kaushikanaik wrote:

    Some­times back I donated some money to Shloka edu­ca­tion at Gore­gaon East and requested them this is to b kept secret as other fam­ily mem­bers may not like this Inspite of my reuest they rang up to thank again and again and though I requested them I do not wish to claim income tax refunds they sent me Receipt by courier.I had tough time to con­vince ppl at home and was in akward posi­tion Now,I have changed my ways and find needy stu­dents and help them directly, ofcourse I m retire d per­son and has enough time to do so.;

  • Satish Rao wrote:

    Man from Matunga — Does men have maiden names?

    Apart from it. Mak­ing a dona­tion online or post has resulted in, me get­ting half a dozen let­ters from dif­fer­ent char­i­ties high­light­ing my gen­eros­ity and whether I can make a dona­tion to them. Enclosed with the let­ters are pre­paid envelopes and a dec­la­ra­tion for me to sign for them to claim tax back on the dona­tion made. And I get half a dozen let­ters every year from the Char­ity to which I donated ask­ing for dona­tion for their dif­fer­ent projects. Upshot of this is that I am fright­ened of send­ing any dona­tion even if I want to.

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    Job creation,at every level is the best form of Char­ity .…. Lippo group chair­man.
    This is more so for a pupu­lous coun­try like ours.Ensures dig­nity of the recepi­ent as well.

  • Dear Bhavin,
    Char­i­ta­ble orgns and NGO“s have become biz houses for mak­ing money and fool the people.In today“s world to show mercy or gen­eros­ity will back­fire on the per­son will­ing to do some help.I had bit­ter exp before four years when some orgn named Global vision approached me thro their rep,a young girl giv­ing me brochures and dona­tion form.
    You know what the girl said Quote: one small kid 3yrs old suf­fer­ing from can­cer and needs help.Please donate as much as u can.UNQUOTE: I was car­ried away by the girl“s request for a cause and the pathetic sight of the child pho­tographed in the buntings of the orgn.GLOBAL VISION.I paid 5000/- and I go receipt after six months .
    Exactly after one year the same orgn sent another girl this time and same old story of sav­ing a life of a tod­dler suf­fer­ing from leukemia.Now I sensed some­thing wrong and this is a sys­tem­atic way of cheat­ing peo­ple who are car­ried away by bogus pho­tos and bunting of the orgn.I drove the girl away from our soci­ety and there­after no rep from GLOBAL VISION has approached till date
    Believe me Mr Bhavin, it is free for all,whether Chart Inst/Temples/Religious orgns/Edu Inst etc. etc.cheat the masses with some excuse
    I feel Chat orgn fall in the cat­e­gory of Ponzi schemes where lakhs of investors are cheated.
    Many of the Chat orgn/NGO“s are not even regd and peo­ple have no time and strength to fol­low up if cheated and the show goes on.
    Even TRUSTS in our coun­try are another ground where peo­ple donate money just under the name of TRUST.However,max irreg­u­lar­i­ties and fraud take place in TRUSTS.
    to me.

  • This is India where there is no respect for anybody’s pri­vacy. It is full of intrud­ers, who if given a lee­way can go to an extent of mak­ing choices for you. Employ­ees of com­pa­nies get incen­tives for shar­ing your email and other per­sonal infor­ma­tion. There are no busi­ness ethics, and on top of it thick skinned heart­less reg­u­la­tory author­i­ties (The Raj con­tin­ues). Despite being aware of all this, I won­der what made Bhavin chose to make some dona­tion! Now suffer..

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Yes, Me too have fallen in such a trap.
    One of the well known char­ity insti­tu­tions played pranks with me. I donted and X amount and after a cou­ple of weeks they called again say­ing I had helped them last year and now it was time to donate again.
    At first I got puz­zled but told them to come and col­lect the cheque. When I opened my cheque book to write out a cheque I noticed that I had just donated two weeks ago! Their dis­hon­esty put me off and I called back to say that I had just made a dona­tion and how you could tell me it was last year!! There was no answer and after a while some­one else called me again for the same char­ity.
    Such behav­ior puts one off from being a good smaritarian.

  • At the out­set it is not nice to let out what we do, espe­cially as far as donat­ing for a good cause.
    How­ever, read­ing the above and the com­ments, it feels good to share one’s expe­ri­ence, as these issues will come out in the open and save a lot of good souls their hard earned money.
    Over the years have been donat­ing for the girl child for their stud­ies etc. at Rs. 3,000/ per child, but due to paucity of time, did not fol­low up with promises that were made. That a progress report would fol­low of each indi­vid­ual child. This never came, nor did the receipts to enable one claim on tax.
    Till one day two sweet lit­tle girls came and opened up the can of worms. I did give in because of their sin­cer­ity and that they would get a com­mis­sion on the amount. But that was the last I let these thieves steal from me.
    A cou­ple of years back another two came to my son’s res­i­dence and said that they were help­ing the aged. I was taken up with the cause and offered an X amount. They requested me to dou­ble it and like a fool consented(mind u a big sum). Till date I did not receive any receipt, nor fol­low up and like some­one said above. Another party kept harass­ing me say­ing that u were kind to help ear­lier why not now. I had to tell them off.
    For the last year had started a SIP at Rs. 5,000/ per month for another cause. After read­ing Bhavin’s arti­cle. I tried to call the party to stop the said sip with effect Feb 2014. In spite of them reas­sur­ing us that it would just take one phone call to stop the sip. I have been asked to send them com­plete details of my name bank, address, amount etc.
    I went to my bank and asked them to stop the sip and to my sur­prise they said they can­not do so. The party them­selves have to send a request. My God. I was so shocked. I told the man­ager what if I keep a zero bal­ance just when the sip is due, or worse still close my account,even though it will cause me a real upset. They had no answer and requested me to meet with a senior tomor­row.
    So it is not worth the trou­ble. I should have added those amounts to the Aasha Dhan and St. Anthony’s home.
    How­ever on the good side HE (GOD)has been very kind to us. Given us wealth in the form of good health. As the dona­tions were given with good intentions.

  • As far as help­ing a per­son on the road or for that mat­ter any­where. I do not agree with Bhavin.
    We should be humane.
    Recently the two broth­ers who saved the life of a 16 year by tak­ing her to the hos­pi­tal, after she fell in between the train and the plat­form. Did any­one harass them?
    Our par­ents showed us the way and we can­not just see some­one in dis­tress.
    They have been involved with so many inci­dents, but were never harassed
    by any­one.
    One was a rob­bery at our neigh­bours that went wrong and the uncle was stabbed in the stom­ach and near the tem­ple.
    My lit­tle Mummy went up to the gent (while no one came for­ward) and tied him up with one of the bed sheets lying there. My Daddy tight­ened the knot and he got back his breath. My daddy then car­ried him about 100 meters down and up stair ways to get a cab (it was early in the morning)He lived a ripe old age of 80 plus. My par­ents were never trou­bled, as they had saved a life.
    One can say that was in the 50s. But in the late 80s and even till recently have helped, but never had trou­ble with the law.
    On the con­trary the Gujarat police would always let me pass by with­out ever inspect­ing my vehi­cle or me. But I kept that trust. Never car­ried any illicit stuff(even liquor). other than my equip­ment.
    Yes I do think twice before help­ing girls/women/ladies in dis­tress, as have had bit­ter expe­ri­ences, but not what my eldest brother expe­ri­enced. 8 bs tack­led him and most from behind, as he was a very good boxer and kept them at bay. They broke his shoul­der bone. While the two girls who he saved ran away, instead of inform­ing the cops who were just a stone’s throw away from the place.
    Have posted the above not to blow my own trum­pet, but so that peo­ple should (make it their duty) HELP, as God knows. One day it could be one of our own or even us and there will be no one to help us.
    Bhavin always think it is not only the poor who could meet with such fate. U being a doc­tor should encour­age peo­ple to help. Request if u do not want to. try not to put speed break­ers for oth­ers, as u are using a plat­form. Please use it for the good and not oth­er­wise.
    It is just an excuse, that. I could write more.….

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