Community organizations have displayed a sad tendency to misuse a fairly common word in the English language: donation. For example, someone is showing a film, and in lieu of listing a ticket price, states a $5 donation at the door is expected. Is the donation a requirement to get in the door? If so, it’s a ticket price. And if that’s the case, they should be honest and call it the cost of admittance.
By dictionary definition, a donation is a contribution freely given. If someone is standing at the door, hand extended, expecting $5, it can hardly be said the contribution was free. Perhaps referring to the price as a donation makes it sound less threatening somehow, but the reality is that’s dishonest.
Even if an organization wouldn’t outright refuse a person entry if they refuse to make the requested “donation,” attaching an exact figure to the amount only increases confusion as to whether the “donation” is mandatory. Simply stating that donations are accepted or welcome is sufficient to let people know a financial contribution would be appreciated.
When someone makes a donation to an organization or nonprofit, the implication is they have done something selfless for the community. It’s a charitable act they can be proud of: not so when the “donation” was, in reality, a demand. If Starbucks changed its menu board to state that a grande caramel whipped cream Oreo-encrusted frappucino could be had for a donation of $4.75 customers would be confused and rightly so. In the first place, that’s a steep price to develop diabetes. And secondly, people would be outraged that Starbucks was masquerading the cost of a frappucino as a donation.