January 31, 2013; Source: Forbes

This idea has been around for a while but now we see it renamed in Forbes with this headline: “Already Cheating on Your Resolutions? Try An Anti-Charity System.” What is an anti-charity system and why the heck would you ever want to try something that sounds like it was patented by Ebenezer Scrooge? The author of the Forbes column, Vanessa Van Edwards, explains:

What exactly is an anti-charity? Simply put, it’s an organization that supports a cause you do not believe in, or that is against your values. People use all different kinds of motivations to get themselves to achieve their goals, like getting rewards and money incentives. Most motivation behaviors are rewards for achievement, but what if there was a punishment for NOT achieving your goals? For some of us, that’s far more motivational…The less you believe in the cause, the harder you’ll work to succeed at your goal!”

So in the anti-charity system, if you put that weight back on or smoke that cigarette or (insert vice here), you (or perhaps a friend who’s holding your anti-charity system money in order to make sure that you don’t back out on the deal) wind up contributing to something that is completely abhorrent to your system of values. Say you are staunchly pro-life; perhaps you wind up donating to NARAL Pro-Choice America. Conversely, if you are adamantly pro-choice, maybe you wind up donating to Americans United for Life.

If abortion isn’t your hot button issue, then think of what is, figure out what nonprofit group is out there working to thwart everything you believe in, and then imagine that you’d potentially be contributing to that cause which is so anathema to your principles. That sounds like a pretty powerful motivator, right? So why does it also sound like such an awful idea?

It’s not just the depressing thought that those who break their resolution would be burdened not only with their own sense of failure but with the sense that they had just made the world a little bit worse (at least in their own eyes) via their unintended donation. It’s that the anti-charity system takes the whole concept of charitable giving, which is supposed to be about helping others, and turns it on its head to figure out how it can be manipulated in order to motivate and serve me me me. It’s certainly a unique idea and it’s even kind of funny in its own way, but at the end of the day, we’ll pass. –Mike Keefe-Feldman