Charitable Organizations

Critique and graphic by: Chris Talbot-Heindl

Tis the season for giving and charitability – which I suppose is a good thing since we in America tend to give the middle finger to everyone in need during the rest of the year.

But what amount of your charitable donation actually makes it to the people who need the charity and which charities are conscionable to give to?

This year always brings out the cynic in me – both because I’m sick of all this “goodwill toward men” that has a start and expiration date; and because I’ve been known to give to organizations, unwittingly disobeying my own paradigm of giving.

For instance, I used to give to the Salvation Army ringers every year, to United Way, and two days ago, I realized that I should no longer donate or purchase from Goodwill.

Technically, The Salvation Army is not a “charity,” but an evangelical protestant church that uses some money to help the needy, but also uses donated money to actively oppress LGBT rights. They have threatened to close soup kitchens if they are forced to follow the same civil rights laws as everyone else when it comes to dealing with gay employees.

This is, of course, ironic, since their mission since being founded in 1865 is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” The Salvy is the second largest charitable organization in the U.S. and one of the world’s largest providers of social aid – providing disaster relief and assistance to the poor.

In The Salvy’s own words, “Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex.  The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life…Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse…In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.”

So, basically, the official stance is that homosexuality is wrong, but so is denying Christian charitability to someone in need due to their sexual orientation. That may seem all good and alright to some, but they give some of the money collected during the giving season to organizations with lobbyists who actively fight for anti-gay policies.

For instance, when New Zealand considered passing the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, The Salvy collected signatures against the attempt. The act decriminalized consensual sex between men. In the UK, the Salvy actively pushed for the passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act that stated that authorities “shall not…promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” In 2001, The Salvy tried to get a resolution passed in federal government that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. Also in 2001, The Salvy lobbied the Bush administration to deny grants and tax deductions to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws.

The same can be said for The United Way. While the official word from The United Way is that they do not discriminate, and while many United Way chapters support many other service organizations, several of which provide services to LGBT people, one of the largest receivers of money from The United Way remains the Boy Scouts of America. And as we all know, the Boy Scouts has taken to blatantly discriminate against LGBT people.

If you do give to The United Way, you should also take the time to designate where you want the funding to go. You can designate on a pledge card one or a few specific organizations that you want to receive your contributions. Or, you can just directly donate to those organizations yourself, bypassing The United Way as a middleman.

In an expose in June, which I found out about two days ago, I learned Goodwill does not deserve your “good will.” The multi-million dollar “non-profit” corporation exploits its disabled workers, sometimes paying as little as 22 center per hour due to a labor law loophole.

The loophole, called the Special Wage Certificate Program, allows non-profit companies to hire disabled workers based on their abilities with no minimum.

The CEO of the company claims that he is doing the disabled workers a favor by giving them the opportunity to be a part of something and that without Goodwill’s “good will” these people would not be employed. This sounds akin to “you should be grateful we’ve hired you at all, take what you are given.”

What is more likely the case is that many of the workers are mentally or emotionally disabled, and may not be able to determine what is right for them and Goodwill is taking full advantage of this fact.

Some Goodwill chapters are going so far as to say they are doing disabled workers a favor by paying sub-minimum wage, claiming that the minimum wage would cause many workers with disabilities to lose their SSI benefits and medical insurance, which is completely false.

Instead of giving your used clothes and items to these scumbags, maybe this charitable season, give it to local charities, such as a second-hand store run by a local shelter, or housing services for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, local churches to redistribute, or the local food pantry or baby pantry.

Maybe the safest way to avoid being an unintentional asshole with your charitability this year is to give to a local organization that you know much about. Otherwise, you may have some research ahead of you before you drop a dime in the bucket and pat yourself on the back.