Cease posting footage of scholars benefiting out of your charity drives

One thing I love about schools is that they regularly provide opportunities for students to practice generosity and community partnership.

Back-to-school stores with gently worn uniforms.

Holiday toy drives.

Coat drives in winter.

Serving a Thanksgiving dinner to those in need.

Prom “boutiques” with donated dresses.

All of this requires a great deal of time, effort and resources to organize and the school communities pulling this off are angels in my book.

There’s only one problem. Of course, this problem does not arise every time or at every school. But when it happens I see red.

From time to time I catch schools or clubs posting photos on social media of students and families benefiting from these services.

Look, as I explained earlier, it’s not the drives themselves and the spirit of generosity that drives them. I have no doubt that the donations and organization come from a good source.

But the times I’ve made comments on social media asking schools or individuals to reconsider posting photos of students receiving donations have often been met with defense.

We got their permission.

We blurred their faces or you can’t see their faces.

Always someone who has a problem with a good deed.

Hello yes. It’s me. i have the problem

Here’s why.

It’s exploitative.

Many students and families understand the embarrassment of choosing second-hand clothes or having someone else pay for your kids’ Christmas gifts. The dissemination of these images on the Internet puts students in a vulnerable position of being recognized by their peers, even if steps are taken to anonymize them. Think about it: If your family, your workplace, your neighborhood, or any other group that knows you were shown a picture of you with your face blurred, you would have dozens of people knowing exactly who is in that picture.

Ask yourself why you feel you should include pictures of students or families receiving donations. For likes? Because without them you will not evoke as many emotions? To increase attendance at Coat Drive next year? All of these reasons are exploitative. You can raise awareness and share the success of an initiative without compromising someone’s dignity.

Think about the purpose of the drive. Is it meant to benefit people who need a little extra help? Or to be able to talk about your good deed the way you want to?

It’s likely against your school’s social media policy.

Most districts have language about what types of photos can be shared by their students, even if they choose to share photos in their technology agreement. What if an image is used without their consent? This easily exposes the district to liability and lawsuits.

Also, I want you to imagine that. You’re in middle school and you need a new coat — yours is frayed, worn, and bursting at the seams — but your mom said she won’t be able to buy one in a few months. You go to the school cloakroom and already feel so awkward and anxious about choosing a used coat. A volunteer parent comes up to you and says, “Smile!” as they take a picture of you rummaging through the pile of coats. “We can put that on social media, right?” they ask. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely feel pressured to say yes because I got something for free.

OK. They have decided to stop sharing pictures of students or their families receiving donations. But you still want to share your group’s work and inspire people to help. so what now?

close ups

Look for opportunities with many different colors or textures. A shot looking down at a fluffy tulle and lustrous pastel satin clothes rack in the driveway for prom dresses would be beautiful and draw attention. Or how about a Thanksgiving food drive with a mountain of chopped sweet potatoes while it’s prepping? Get creative!

Photos of the volunteers

Ideally, take photos of volunteers during setup or teardown so you don’t have to get involved in what I believe is a sacred act of community sharing.

Creative and fun arrangements

Snap a picture of toys cleverly arranged in a sparkling Christmas tree, or make a stop-motion video to make it look like coats and dresses are dancing on their own. (If you don’t know how, there’s a teenager in your life who does, I promise you.)

Before and after

Get a picture that shows all the donations collected – whether it’s food, clothing, gifts or other items. Then show what’s left after that to show how many items went to people who need them.

In closing, I think it’s worth noting that the sources we look to for wisdom – from all major faiths to some of our brightest thinkers in history – generally discourage us from looking for external validation for our good deeds. This quote from Marcus Aurelius, one of the most respected Roman emperors, I think sums it up pretty perfectly:

“If you have done a good deed that has benefited another, why do you need a third reward – as fools do – praise for doing well, or looking for a favor in return?”

– Marcus Aurelius

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments.

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