Saturday, June 08, 2002

Eliminate the Middleman: Stephanie Zimmerman has a story in the Chicago Sun-Times detailing the fund raising tribulations of the United Way. It reminded me of a meeting I attended about 10 years ago where the local head of the United Way was to show up to tell us that things "were getting better". You see, there had been a local problem with two competing United Way organizations fighting each other tooth and nail for the franchise at local businesses. And then the long time head of United Way of America, William Aramony, had been fired after it was revealed he had been dipping into the cookie jar to pay for his personal high living and that of his teen age mistress and other friends and relatives. Anyhow, this young junior executive type shows up to put oil on the troubled waters and it becomes quite clear that he is a professional charity executive, hopping from one management position to another in the "nonprofit industry". (Note to self: running a nonprofit does not mean you don't get paid.) While we were all polite, the boy got sent off with his tail between his legs. And I have refused to deal with them ever since.

Nowadays, the United Way has an additional problem. All over the country, the local organizations are making politically correct funding decisions that infuriate the contributors. Refusing funding for the Boy Scouts is just the tip of the iceberg, take a look some time at who they do fund. Stephanie does not mention this factor in her tale of woe, but the people I talk to always mention it. They don't want "nonprofit industry" professionals deciding where the money goes, because increasingly they don't seem to get it right. My suggestion is that you figure out exactly where you want your charitable contributions to go and donate directly. The United Way's role is superfluous.

And for those interested in Bill Aramony, the word is that he is out of the slammer.