Jayne Woodley is chief executive of Oxfordshire Community Foundation, who connect donors with local causes, and has spoken out after UK shoppers spent £1.1 billion on Black Friday instead of donating money to charity.
She said: “I wonder how many of us have felt appalled at the compulsion of our fellow humans to buy, buy and buy more stuff when what that world really needs right now is a lot less stuff!
“Yesterday (Tuesday) was #GivingTuesday yet a lot of people I spoke to weren’t even aware it was happening. Why weren’t we talking about that more? It’s a missed opportunity to help charities. Why are we so embarrassed about doing good?”
Mrs Woodley’s comments followed a lively Oxford Union debate, organised last month by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, which asked: ‘Is looking good better than doing good?’
As Geography professor Danny Dorling, a speaker against the motion at the debate, put it: “A bit of modest spending on ourselves is fine, but it you find that you are spending more on you than anything else, you are veering towards being narcissistic and narcissism is a disorder.”
And another of the speakers against the motion, Changing Faces head James Partridge, said: “Something like £70bn a year is spent on looking good – an average of £1,000 a person. Compare that with how much is spent on doing good.
“Even on very generous assumptions about how much volunteering is worth - something like 25 per cent of the population do volunteer, and about 44 per cent of the population give - when you add the whole thing up it comes to about £35bn a year – half of what is spent on looking good..
Mr Partridge believes it’s time people stopped spending so much on themselves and instead turned their attention, energy and funds to helping charities like Oxfordshire Community Foundation and the vulnerable groups that need it most.
He added: “It distracts monies from those incredibly important causes, some of which are local, some of which are international. Philanthropy sadly is in retreat and yet the state is also backing away.
“We need to galvanize our society into giving much more, and in the process people will get a buzz out of it.”