I am a garrulous person and I talk to all kinds of people. And I get to hear all kinds of things people do 'to give back to society'. For instance, a 45 year+ old person who teaches somewhere in the academia in India (I'm not even telling you the city) told me that he/she (I'm even obfuscating the gender as this is not any individual's criticism) does not sell old newspapers but has given them to their maid servant ever since he/she got into service.
Few people also tell me that it is a noble thing to 'get a girl married off', so, find a poor girl and spend money for her marriage-- buy some dowry for the marriage, gifts, dinner etc. This is something I have heard many people say. Academics and non-academics. Both. I would never reply back but would always wonder-- if you found that poor girl child, why not educate her? Why not fund an endowment (doing it officially is so much better--it allows the girl to say, she got 'so-and-so scholarship' in the future; it helps her career too) for that girl child? If she were poor and uneducated and you got her married off, how much of her future security do you ensure? Also, when that girl child gives birth to children, would her children be educated? She wouldn't be able to educate her children because she remained uneducated anyway. And if that girl child gave birth to more girls....
And about not selling old newspapers and about giving that money to the maid servant. What did the maid servant do with the money? Did her husband use that money to get drunk and beat her up? I'm sorry that's wrong use of money, to be honest about it. This giving is similar to how the micro-finance institutions loan money to the poor and do not train them sufficiently where to use the money. So, poor people take loans from MFIs and then spend it on lavish social functions. Or getting extra rooms built in their villages. And then cannot pay the money (or the interest) back. Certainly, in the context of giving out the old newspapers to the maid servant to tell, they are not being asked for the money. So, there is an element of 'doing something' idea involved in the gesture. It is, on the surface, a positive gesture. But how far does it go?
So, we do a number of things sometimes. But how far do they go? What is their reach?