Before you give at the office,..
Inside the corporate doors of big business, philanthropic fundraising is becoming just that—big business.
Nationwide, there are some 2,300
United Ways. If United Way were a profit-making business, it would rank 195th
in the Fortune 500.
United Way "loaned executives" are
engineering donation plans with upper
management for the funding of human
service agencies. But, unlike most business enterprises, there is no pressure from
competitors on United Way.
Last year, 86.8 percent of United Way
organizations had no competition at any
of the companies that allowed them to
According to researcher David Horton
Smith, "The vast majority of American
employees and executives involved in deciding to give to charity at their workplace are participating in the equivalent
of a Russian election: they can give to
the only candidate (the United Way) or
none at all."
The concept of United Way began in
1921, when the Community Chest was
established at the request of businesses
besieged from every direction for charitable donations.
Community Chest consolidated the
various charity campaigns into one operation, which became the United Fund in
1951. More agencies were added, and the
"fair-share giving guide" was developed.
This year the name was changed to
The Community Chest consolidation
created a monopolistic giant in the charity world, fostering disparity in funding
and discrimination in deciding which
groups would qualify, asserts the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).
The NCRP is a broad-based coalition
of public interest and social action groups
and includes organizations as diverse as
the National Council of Churches, Common Cause, and the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense and
Education Fund. Under NCRP's guidance, local coalitions are organized to
examine their communities' philanthropic institutions, particularly foundations,
corporate givers and the subject of this
Robert Bothwell, NCRP executive
director, claims that the slogan "a gift to
the United Way works for all of us" is
simply false advertising.
Of major concern to NCRP is the
small number of charities funded by
United Way and the virtual monopoly*
United Way has on fundraising in the
Of the more than five million charitable groups in this country, United
Way funds only 37,000.
"United Ways do much good work,"
admits Bothwell, speaking for the NCRP,
but "they definitely do not work for all
of us. If you look back at the four
or five major social action and public
interest movements in this country during
the last decade-the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the
environment, older Americans, and other
ethnic activist movements—you'll find
funding of such organizations by and
NCRP charges that funding for charities benefitting women and minorities
is comparatively lower than that for more
Traditional agencies are also favored
year after year for the same or greater-
amounts of money, at the exclusion of
newer, struggling, non-traditional charities.
The United Way traditionally answers
by saying that United Ways are open
systems, that any charity can apply and
if it meets standards, be accepted as a
by Christine LeLaurin
The Young Men s Christian Association is now a standard recipient of charitable contributions. But if George Williams, the 22-year-old dry-goods clerk who started the
Y.M.C.A. more than a century ago in England, were starting up in America today, he
would have great difficulty getting philanthropic funds for his work. According to
the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, Mr. Williams' venture, like
today's women's groups, minority organizations and public interest organizations,
would be at(nontraditional donee", too new, too risky and too controversial to get
money from traditional charity sources.
In addition, his age and occupation, like those of many in today's nontraditional
organizations, would effectively make him unable to influence the philanthropic
circles of power - mainly the white, middle-aged and successful males who govern
corporate and foundation giving.
The New York Times
June 24, 19 79
member agency. These standards require
that any agency seeking admission must
have been in operation for at least two
years and not be severely limited by fiscal
indebtedness. In other words, like getting
a bank loan, you first have to prove you
don't need one.
Houston's United Way, which also
serves much of the Texas Gulf Coast
area, is no exception to the general rule.
Local executive director Frank Cleaver
admits that the NCRP charge of monopoly workplace solicitation is "essentially true." He reiterates that United Way
grew out of Community Chest, which was
established to remedy the situation of
separate and numerous fund drives in
His answer is consistent with the 1976
comment of a Santa Clara, California,
United Way executive: "United Way
didn't want a monopoly, the employers
Although both United Way and the
NCRP agree that it is impossible for one
umbrella agency to represent all charities, NCRP's Bothwell contends that,
because United Way funds so few charities, "it is extraordinarily unfair for
United Way to have a virtual monopoly
over the most efficient technology for
raising money ever devised: on-the-job
solicitation of employees."
Last year, in Houston, a dispute arose
between the National Association of
Letter* Carriers and U.S. Postal Service
officials over new prohibitions against
collecting for charities other than United
Way on the workroom floor.
The union letter carriers wanted to
collect donations from co-workers for
muscular dystrophy and sickle cell anemia, but were prohibited by postal service
officials, because it felt that too many
charity collections would interfere with
Bothwell believes that businesses
should allow their employees "a choice
of charities to support through the convenient and lucrative method of payroll deduction."
He cites surveys showing that people
want this choice, and that given the
choice people will give more of their
salary dollar. So, Bothwell contends,
open workplace solicitation would benefit all charities, not just those currently
excluded from United Way.
To demonstrate his point, Bothwell
recalls what happened in five of six
cities in which United Ways competed
with other groups from the Combined
Health Agencies Drives (CHADs) which
are federations of charities like American Cancer Society and American Heart
"In those five cities, while giving to
the health agency drives increased dramatically, giving to the United Way also
increased at a rate equal to the national
average for all United Ways. In other
words, just as true competition is healthy
in the marketplace, so too would it be
healthy in the charity community."
Locally United Way funds 55, or less
than one fourth, of the approximately
230 charitable organizations in Houston.
"It's all a matter of logistics," explains a Houston United Way volunteer.
"There are many worthy agencies, [but]
simply not enough money to divert to
Qualifying for United Way support is
tough in Houston, as it is elsewhere.
Thirty-four agencies asked for new funding this year.
Twenty-four of those were ineligible.
Some were national in scope, without a
local unit, others duplicated services
provided by other United Way funded
agencies or offered services that could be
funded by the public sector.
Of the remaining 10 agencies, four
withdrew voluntarily during the initial
phases of the admissions process. Three
were eventually funded. Only 1.5 new
agencies a year are funded, on the average, by 294 of the largest United Way
organizations. Last year only one new
agency was admitted to Houston's
Two of the three new local agencies
are women's organizations—the Houston
Area Women's Center and the Recovery
Existing member agencies serving
women received the following support:
Rogers St., $19,643 (an intermediate
residential recovery center for alcoholic women offered by Volunteers of
America); ENCORE, $10,000 (a post-
mastectomy rehabilitation program offered by YWCA), and Women for Work,
$28,620 (a program to help women
decide on and secure optimal employment, operated by Vocational Guidance
Although these newly funded programs represent an attempt to meet the
needs of women, disparity in funding
still exists: Allocations for Girl Scouts
($385,816) equal half of that for Boy
Scouts ($731,264). Moreover, allocations
for Campfire Girls ($129,100) and Girl
Scouts combined ($514,916) equal not
quite three fourths of those earmarked
for Boy Scouts alone. The gift to YWCA
($712,510) still lags slightly behind that
of YMCA ($760,503).
A United Way information sheet on
services to women reports that "of the
agencies supported by the United Way
only two are devoted exclusively or primarily to males. Nine are devoted to the
needs of females. All other agencies serve
both males and females. In fact," the
summary continues, "beneficiary data
show that well over half of those served
by United Way funded agencies are
In fact, the nine exclusively female
agencies collectively receive 11.4 percent of the allocations budget of $15.3
Only three agencies among the 55
members of Houston's United Way are
identifiable as minority agencies—the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, Houston Area Urban
League and La Clinica de Consulta
Familiar. None are among the 10 highest
funded agencies. They receive a combined total of $406,000 or 2.6 percent
of the allocations for fiscal year 1979-80.
Madgelean Bush, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center
calls the United Way funding "discriminative," adding "It does not relate to the
needs of the low-income agencies. . ."
Pluria Marshall, executive director of
Houston's Operation Breadbasket, aired
strong objections to both United Way's
minority funding practices and restrictions imposed on member agencies. "The
United Way is an agency that simply
does not give a damn about the minority community . . . most of its money
goes to what we call 'safe programs.'
"The money they give is to recreation programs and social service programs that target the effects of the
problem-not the problem. We [Operation Breadbasket] try to eliminate the
problem by getting people jobs and business contracts. We put pressure on folks
to make them treat all Americans the
"That one activity would disqualify
us. We would have to be dealing against
some of the very people who run the
United Way. There are probably several
members on the United Way Board who
we've either put a picket line up on or a
Rev. Ray Martin, general director of
the Progressive Amateur Boxing Association (PABA), re-emphasizes what Bush
and Marshall say about minority admission to United Way: "I don't think
they're just and fair toward black organizations. I don't think they're fair toward
minorities or any organization that hasn't
traditionally been part of it."
In May, 1975, one local paper reported that a two-year-old conflict between
United Way and the Eliza Johnson Center
for the Aged had come to a head when
the Center rejected what they called a
"humiliating" offer of $11,000, a mere
1.7 percent of their $645,000 operating
Board members for the center accused
United Way of discrimination and of
yielding to pressures from the center's
commercial competitors in order to drive
the center out of business.
United Way claimed the center was
overstaffed and wasteful. They denied
racial discrimination charges, noting that
many blacks receive help through funded
agencies and that blacks participated in
United Way's decisions about the center.
In 1975, there were reports of clashes
between United Way and the Mexican-
American community. Mexican-American
leaders charged that United Way failed to
respond to the needs of their community
and suggested a community boycott
against contributions to United Way.
State Rep. Ben T. Reyes noted several
Mexican-American organizations that had
applied to the United Way for membership were turned down-the Chicano
Training Center, the Mexican-American
Education Council and the Association
for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, which United Way now funds on a
non-member affiliate basis.
Soon after the announcement of the
boycott, Frederico Souflee Jr., executive
director of the Chicano Training Center,
told the Post that Houston's United Way
funding was lagging 25 years behind that