The Rev. Randy Dollins: Following the money
December 4, 2009
When I check out at Safeway, I am usually asked if I want to donate $1 to "such and such a cause."
My response is always the same — "no."
I'm not stingy, I try to be generous, it's just that I have already selected which charities I give to. I can be persuaded to give spontaneously, but I can also be quite cynical.
I am apprehensive to support a cause if I do not know how my money will be used.
With any philanthropic activity, the giver must have faith that the funds will get to the right place. I understand that a percentage of monies collected must go to operating costs, salaries, etc. Yet, I hope that most of the money I donate goes toward the hands-on, making something happen, activity of the charity.
I recently bought a $16 frozen pumpkin roll to support the girl's soccer team. How much does the team earn? I don't know, but I think I could have just given the team a $5 donation and they would have earned more, I would have saved $11, and some fat cat somewhere would not have exploited either of us.
In October a youth asked me to buy a shirt that says, "Fight like a girl."
The shirt is part of a campaign to raise breast cancer awareness.
Breast cancer is a real problem, but I am suspicious of "awareness."
I know that a T-shirt doesn't cost $25.
Who gets the money for awareness? I think we love the idea of awareness because it is easier to be "aware" of a problem than it is to actually do something about it.
While enthusiasm has certainly waned, Lance Armstrong's Livestrong campaign certainly raised lots of awareness, selling more than 70 million wristbands.
How has it helped people with cancer? I am not suggesting that it hasn't, it's just unclear where the money went.
The popularity of the program did give rise to profiteering, i.e., people making money off a popular idea without actually supporting it.
During the wristband craze, millions of counterfeits were sold. If you think about it, these crafty villains actually helped spread awareness, even though they were pocketing the cash.
It's precisely this kind of thing that adds to my cynicism.
As charitable givers, we do not have the time to thoroughly research every charity.
As I said, philanthropy requires faith.
I do think we need to do a little investigation.
A search on the Web reveals all sorts of different programs funded by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and you can even find a detailed budget.
Here's the catch, while searching livestrong.com, you also can find a full directory of abortion providers for every state.
The foundation is not necessarily a large proponent of abortion, but it is troubling that they offer such a directory.
I guess living strong doesn't apply to those in the womb. All the more reason for a little due diligence before opening your wallet and your heart.