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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