July 31, 2004
The United Way Board of Trustees claim "donor confusion" led to their decision to once again allow donors to choose the charities they want to fund. The July 20 outreach by Minutemen United and Operation Save America wasn't mentioned in the Columbus Dispatch article about United Way's change of heart. That's okay, those of us who were there know all those smiling faces and blue signs had the desired effect. Great job, Christians!!
For more information about OSA's public demonstration at United Way see:
United Way eases restrictions on donations
Published: Thursday, July 29, 2004
The Columbus Dispatch
Jennifer Smith Richards
Puzzled and discouraged United Way donors were unhappy.
The affected charities — ones not affiliated with the United Way — certainly weren't pleased.
So on Tuesday, the United Way Board of Trustees voted unanimously to ditch its year-old rule that barred donors from giving more than 50 percent of their contributions to non-United Way charities.
Instead, the organization will go back to allowing donors to earmark all of their givings (minus a 5 percent processing fee and a share of the fund-raising costs) to whichever eligible health or human-services nonprofit they prefer.
"Frankly, the issue was that it was so confusing to our donors and they just plain didn't like it," said Sharon Keaney, spokeswoman for the United Way of Central Ohio. "We are being responsive."
And maybe donors will respond to that.
"Cool," said Joseph Lytle of Columbus, who had predicted last year's policy would hurt giving. "That way, I can donate to who I want to and not to who they want to."
Lytle donated directly to his chosen charities last year. This year, he said he's more likely to go through United Way.
Nonmember agencies raised about $200,000 less during the most-recent campaign, which ended this spring, than they had in past years.
That meant charities such as the Mid-Ohio Food Bank got a smaller cut.
In the 2002 campaign, 28 people designated the food bank as United Way funding recipients; the just-ended campaign using the 50 percent rule drew 14 donors, said Evelyn Behm, associate director at the food bank.
Behm, who called the rule "disturbing" when it was first enacted, said rescinding it is a good step.
"It is not a lot of money for us," she said. "But I think that's a wise decision. I think it's really important that people have control over where their dollars go."
In 1997, about 10 percent of $39.9 million raised in the United Way campaign went to nonmember organizations. In 2002, 16 percent went to groups outside its network.
That year, about 3,000 donors gave 50 percent or more of their donations to the United Way campaign to nonmember organizations. In the most-recent campaign, about 3,250 donors gave roughly $4.8 million — about 11 percent — of the campaign's $52.5 million total — to nonmember agencies.
Givers can choose from 325 nonmember agencies.
United Way started allowing donors to give to nonmember agencies about 20 years ago so people could participate in workplace campaigns while still choosing from favorite charities.
United Way President and CEO Janet E. Jackson said the recommending committee and the United Way board moved quickly to rescind the policy when everyone realized what confusion it had caused.
The board acted just in time for the 2004 campaign, which officially kicks off Sept. 15.
The United Way will focus on setting the record straight about one more thing: The United Way doesn't — and never did — charge a 50 percent administrative fee.
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