Friday, June 1, 2007

Give Some Real Thought to Your Donations

The United Way of Washington County and the United Way of Benton County will merge next month, and the new organization will also include Madison County, Arkansas, and McDonald County, Missouri. The Morning News tells us that the new, improved United Way of Northwest Arkansas is a wonderful thing to behold, and I hope but am skeptical that it is so. Will donors in Madison County get excited about funding nonprofits in Missouri? Will Fayetteville residents be as enthralled by sending their donations to the NWA United Way as they were about sending their airport to XNA?

The idea of joint fund drives for funding charities has been around for 120 years, but in 1913 the current structure of wealthy elites assuming responsibility for endorsing the agencies seeking funds was inaugurated by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. This scheme was intended to make it more convenient for businessmen to make a single charitable donation and not be bothered by multiple requests for donations to every do-gooder group that came asking, while also getting to decide which charities were worthy of their support and which would take the hindmost.

I have been a United Way donor for several years, but I think I am done with them. I am somewhat uncomfortable with turning over my charitable giving decisions to a couple of bankers heading this new organization. They and their existing clients assume the authority to organize and coordinate the solicitation, distribution, and use of public charitable dollars and to set standards and monitor the performance of the local charities. Their decisions reflect their interests. Why do they support recreational subsidies for softball and swimming teams in Siloam Springs but not the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association efforts to preserve urban green space? Why do they support the homophobic Boy Scouts but not the more tolerant PFLAG of Northwest Arkansas?

In the future, I won’t give less, but I will be sending my checks to the individual charities of my own informed choice, not those that get the seal of approval from the “leaders” of "Northwest Arkansas." I hope others will consider that option as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment