Archive for the ‘Charity’ Category

Service of What Were They Thinking II? Gun Permits for Blind Applicants, Publishing Charitable Donations and Magazine Subscription Rates

Thursday, October 17th, 2013


Seeing Straight

Did you know that Iowa grants gun permits to blind applicants? They fear that not doing so would be in violation of the Americans with EyeglassesDisabilities Act.

Giving for All to See

Publishing the amounts people give to charity is old as the hills and must work. Proud of my new last name I learned my lesson when newly married a thousand years ago. I put my name on the envelope I dropped in the basket at church only to see it listed in the monthly published donations at the lowest level.

charityRecently I almost offered a modest online donation to celebrate a friend’s father’s life when I noticed that the site was publishing each donation and name. As $100 wasn’t the amount I had in mind, I passed. There’s no way to tell how much charities don’t get because of potential donors like me though I’m sure they’ve worked out that public pressure ups totals.

How Dumb Are Their Readers?

One design magazine has dogged me to renew my subscription at $24/year or a “special offer” of $48 for two. A blow-in card in every issue boasts a $15 offer for new subscribers. Hmmm.

Can you add to this list? All three examples are head scratchers to me. Your thoughts?

writing a check

Service of Color When It Jars

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Pink garbage can

With paintings, furniture, ceramic tile, decorative elements, fashion—almost everything I can think of—all colors fly.

There are exceptions.

Last Sunday I drove by oversized pink plastic containers waiting for garbage pickup on a country road. A stylized ribbon on traditional green, brown or blue containers would have had the same effect of showing support for breast cancer research and patients and would not have looked so out of place—plain ugly–in a bucolic setting. [Actually, I don’t like to see any garbage pails hanging out on such a road but that’s a different subject.] Whose idea was it to associate a garbage can with a good cause? Just saying.

Turquoise houseI’m also not a fan of lavender or turquoise exterior house paint in northern climes

Speaking of color, what’s with all the blue nail polish? Nobody in New York is wearing pink, red or purple anymore. I like cerulean, sapphire, cobalt and aqua but I’ve not made the jump to my nails though I’m getting used to it on others.

Blue food? Nobody has trouble with blue tortilla chips.

pink hairTeens in head-to-toe tattoos are often the people with blue or unnaturally red/orange hair though I’ve also seen 50+ women so festooned. They don’t look ugly, just vying for attention yet some seem uncomfortable in their locks.  

Are there colors that seem out of place to you?

Purple carrots


Service of Hunger

Monday, June 10th, 2013

pie eating contest

Joey Chestnut ate 68 hotdogs at Nathan’s July 4th 2012 contest and over the June 1 weekend this year, he scarfed down 25 half pastrami sandwiches, both in 10 minutes. The latter contest was to celebrate the Katz’s Deli 125th anniversary at the World Pastrami Eating Championship. Chestnut won both competitions.

In films about life in small-town America we’ve seen countless pie eating contests at charming country fairs. Paul Newman’s character, Luke Jackson, memorably ate 50 eggs on a dare in “Cool Hand Luke.”

land of plentyWe’ve always thought we were the land of plenty and these contests seemed like harmless fun. Yet according to, 16 million children in this country “don’t get the food they need.”

I read about Patty Stonesifer in Maureen Dowd’s opinion piece, “She’s Getting Her Boots Dirty,” June 2 in The New York Times. Dowd wrote about the executive whose new job is directing Martha’s Table, an organization in Washington DC that provides those in need with food, among other things.

Children eating“After serving as the highest-ranking woman at Microsoft, Stonesifer helped Bill and Melinda Gates start their philanthropy in an office above a Seattle-area pizza parlor in 1997,” wrote Dowd. Stonesifer, who works for free now as she did for the largest charity in the world, explains that Bill Gates taught her to think big. “So here, instead of simply figuring out how to move from providing 60,000 meals a month to 66,000, I want to think about how to end child hunger in D.C,” Dowd quoted her as saying.

About this philanthropist Dowd reported: “Her 89-year-old mother started a Bread for the World chapter in her retirement community in Indianapolis and, until just recently, continued to do volunteer work for St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity.”

She meets her clients and observes, as Dowd reports: “ ‘These folks are just waiting for a bag of food,’ Stonesifer marvels as she looks over the mound of bags filled with vegetables and fruit, cereal and soup. ‘They come early because they believe there won’t be enough. It looks like the Depression, this long line. And they’re not sitting on their butts, waiting for a handout. They’re scrambling to meet their basic needs.’”

I don’t believe that Katz’s or Nathans mean any harm or hurt by conducting these traditional American events because if I did, I wouldn’t identify them. Before its contest, Katz’s, that sells 20 thousand pounds of meat a week according to CBS NY, gave a fundraiser/Shabbat dinner to benefit the Henry Street Settlement, a charity in its neighborhood.

However, I question the validity and symbolism of food contests these days with so many millions of starving people here. The marketing/PR minds I know, if charged with the task, could design any number of other wonderful ways to celebrate and create new traditions for food businesses like these as well as for country fairs, at least until hunger is a memory and ours is, once again, a land of plenty. What do you think?

 Corn field

Service of Gorilla Fundraising

Thursday, November 1st, 2012


I’ve written about businesses that, at the cash register, try to embarrass and strong-arm customers into buying a book or groceries-or whatever they sell-so that they can donate the items to charity. If putting the squeeze on customers who may or may not already be pressed financially isn’t bad enough, they then take credit for “donating” [while making a profit], what their customers actually have given to food pantries or children or others in need.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it’s bound to start up again. I’ve seen a business, a TV network and a  major bank heading the charge.

childrenfundraisingIn addition, I’ve observed several recent techniques that inspired a reprise post. I live near a town and try to use its vendors. I am off-put when children, often with parents, stand in front of the door of the small business I want to enter. They are often selling tickets for a raffle to raise money for a team trip or uniforms. When this happened the other day, card tables with a team of kids around each were posted in front of doors throughout town. If you gave at one you felt cornered at the others.

The other month the subject line in an email I received, from an organization to which I belong, noted that I had not yet signed up to attend thus and such a fundraising event. I found the threatening and accusatory language inappropriate and a turnoff. What made it worse was that I had signed up long before and I still felt uncomfortable by the inference.

wagging-a-fingerThreatening subject lines on emails arrive for non-charitable causes–such as joining webinars or attending conferences–and it’s just as off-putting especially when sent by a stranger, although I don’t expect an acquaintance to reprimand me because I haven’t agreed to participate in an event or to buy something.

Do you have examples of gorilla fundraising or do you believe that anything goes if you believe in and want to support the cause? Where do you draw the line?


Service of Options

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012


The word “option” came up in remarks made by both special award winners at the 63rd annual ceremony of The Christopher Awards last week. I was fortunate to be part of the team to promote the event.

Marty Lyons, former defensive lineman for the New York Jets and ESPN Radio color analyst, spoke about the options faced by one of the children he met through the foundation he launched 30 years ago. In fact it was for this foundation that he was given the 2012 James Keller Award. James Keller founded The Christophers and the award recognizes adults who impact the lives of children and young people who change the world.

christophers2012motherdeloresmartylyonsLyons, [his photo is on the right, with Mother Dolores Hart], told the guests at the gala in New York about a 17 year old severely ill with leukemia. She told Lyons she dreamed she had gone on a walk, farther from home than usual, and was confronted with the option of returning or going on to God’s house, which seemed to represent the shorter distance. He said that she knew that it was time to give up the pain and morphine and to go to her new home. That day, he said, she chose the latter option.

In three decades, the Marty Lyons Foundation has offered hope and inspiration to seriously ill children and teens. Among the over 6,000 wishes the Foundation has granted, it provided a seizure-alert dog for a teen, a trip for a 13-year-old girl dying from leukemia to visit her extended family, and sent a Long Island, N.Y. boy with a rare genetic disease to Disney World with his family.

Helping these children appears to have been a natural choice for Lyons and as a gifted speaker, describing the program a joy. However he is so moved by their plight that he chokes up with emotion when he speaks about some of them. He had to stop to catch his breath as he told us that the child who inspired the foundation would have celebrated his birthday the day before the May 24 awards gala. Lyons, who works full time and maintains a frantic schedule, opted to show his emotions when he could have said he was too busy to attend or could have kept his remarks on safe ground, addressing issues that didn’t touch him deeply.

Mother Dolores Hart. Photo Bettina Cirone

Mother Dolores Hart. Photo Bettina Cirone

The issue of options came up again when the other special award winner, Mother Delores Hart, noted “we have the option to live correctly.” The 2012 Christophers’ Life Achievement Award recognized the former actress who became a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. There aren’t many people with a soaring career who opt for the path Mother Delores chose. The first actress to kiss Elvis on screen, she was recently profiled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “God is the Bigger Elvis.”

Mother Dolores never left behind her connection to the arts.  With close friend Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal, she built a performing arts center on the Abbey grounds, which hosts a wide range of community productions.  She remains an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives her a vote that helps determine each year’s Oscar winners.

Can you share examples of options where the choices are dramatic and repercussions difficult or life-changing?


Mary Higgens Clark is to the right of Mother Dolores; Ken Schroy of the Marty Lyons Foundation to Marty’s left; Mrs. Lyons to his right.

Service of Volunteers

Monday, April 16th, 2012


The old saying “never volunteer,” takes on a new meaning since last week when I read about The Brooklyn Museum and how it treated its now defunct Brooklyn Museum Community Committee: It tossed out the 64 year old group like last week’s garbage, half promising to dedicate to it yet another wall plaque.

In “Ousted Museum Group Angry Over Breakup,” in The Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Maloney described the committee’s beginnings in 1948: “The group, tasked with raising the museum’s profile, started a docent program, gave presentations in low-income schools with items from the collection, and planned events.”

Until December, its office was in the museum but it paid all its expenses, such as a part-time secretary, from the money it raised. At one point the committee produced the yearly fundraising gala which was taken over by professionals about a dozen years ago. One committee member had served 50+ years. Quoting the museum’s director, Arnold Lehman, Maloney wrote: “‘The world of fundraising has become much more complicated, much more sophisticated and much more competitive over the past couple of decades.'”

She continued: “Indeed, in order to compete for public and private dollars, nonprofit institutions must have trained professionals on staff to coordinate fundraising, said Marian Stern, adjunct assistant professor at New York’s University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising.

award2“Even as the Community Committee’s role shifted, its relationship with the museum’s successive administrations was positive, members said. When it no longer had a gala to organize, the committee created an annual award to honor women in the arts. The museum administration and curatorial staff became increasingly involved, committee members said.

“But last year, committee members said, the relationship soured. In the fall, without explanation, they said, the museum began intercepting their mail, sending it instead to the development office.”

wallplaqueThe article ends: “Ms. Williams, the museum’s spokeswoman, said a plaque in the museum lobby lists the Community Committee among major donors. The possibility of another plaque or marker to honor the group is under discussion, she said.”

I was gratified to read that some of the ex committee members have removed the museum from their wills and that one is giving her print collection to the Jewish Museum. I congratulate Jennifer Maloney for writing the story and The Wall Street Journal for covering it. I hope that readers of the paper’s “Greater New York” section who currently support the museum [or plan to], either write the director or follow the lead of the disgruntled committee members making clear the reason.

I belong to an organization that grosses about $1 million for its major fundraising lunch, run by a fulltime volunteer, supported by other volunteers–all women. They are professional at what they do but not one makes a living fundraising.

I can’t think of a good reason for the Museum to have disbanded its committee of 35 to 40 people. Some conjectures:

The museum….

**Didn’t want an image associated with old people in favor of hip, wealthy up-and-comers  

**Fired its PR and/or community relations department and then made this decision

**Needed the office space used by the committee for another activity

**Forgot it was in Brooklyn and that a contingent of longtime borough supporters speaks well of it

**Knows that neither its professional development nor administrative staff will get old and seemingly useless

**Fired the person who coordinated fundraising efforts with volunteers

**Lacked the imagination to put these loyal, enthusiastic promoters to work

What do you speculate the institution had in mind?


Service of Charity II

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011


In “The Do-Good Zeal of the College Bound,” Caitlin Flanagan reported that “many of our most ambitious high school students now prefer combining international travel with community service experiences in desperately poor countries. The elite college-bound teen now wants–with the zeal of the convert and the focused intensity of a safe cracker–to ‘give back.’ Never, ever get between a Yale applicant and his or her chance to give back. You will be mowed down in an instant.”

waving-goodbyeIn her Wall Street Journal article Flanagan answers the question of how parents can feel comfortable sending their teen to these remote areas: “The answer, as always, is to throw money at the problem.” She notes that for $5,000 plus $2,400 for the flight from JFK Airport, organizations like Global Routes and Global Works will deliver a student “to an unpronounceable village in Cambodia” or for a “service and surf” experience in the Fiji Islands.

peace-corps1The students do what their Peace Corps predecessors did-“build schools, teach English, advance the cause of global understanding,” Flanagan maintains. “The difference was that the Peace Corps generation (who are the parents of the Global Routes kids) did not see their efforts as quid pro quo. Yet I doubt there has ever been a Global Routes kid who hasn’t uttered the incantatory phrase, ‘This will look good on my college applications.'”

Flanagan, a former college counselor at a prep school, observes, “Admissions officers at elite colleges see these trips for exactly what they are: worthwhile endeavors undertaken by well-intentioned kids, but no different from a Grand Tour of Europe–just the current fashion for wealthy youngsters, who are supervised and pampered at every step.”

shopping-bagsFlanagan adds “The ‘I just want to give back’ kids are starting to exhaust all of us because what they’ve really become good at is taking. They take up most of the spots in the best schools in the country, they wrap any scurrilous activity they can think of–from fraternity keggers to middle school make-out parties–in the banner of heart-rending causes…”

I also question the intention of most of these kids. The strategy is clearly to pork up their resumes and their parents are on board. That’s OK, but in this economy, the way they are going about it gives me pause. I mentored a public school graduate who excelled at a city college, took a full course load and strenuous, high profile paid internships at the same time. On graduation, he earned a fabulous if stressful job at a Fortune 100 corporation where is is now. At 25 he continues to make time to mentor high school students and run charitable initiatives. He’s helped others since high school, all on his own. In addition, I’ve met scores of scholarship students who beef up their resumes the old fashioned way: With incredible internships combined with any paying jobs they can get and excellent grades.

There are so many essential ways that these Global Routes/Works students could help while feeding their resumes right here in the good old US of A and in most cases, not 50 miles from home. Shame on them and their parents for supporting an empty suit approach to charity. Instead, they might send to charity the money they spend to ship their kids to these offshore programs and watch their children grow by really helping others, close to home. Agree?


Service of Museums

Monday, June 20th, 2011

met-museumOne of my earliest memories is of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History with my sister. I was too young to have been aware of entrance fees; however our allowances were modest so I trust they weren’t exorbitant.

I was glad to note that both these museums have suggested fees–rather than a hard and fast ticket price–in a list posted in The New York Times on the occasion of the Met’s raising its suggestion to $25. The Natural History Museum hopes for $16. Along with the Brooklyn Museum [$10], they are the only ones that offer the option of paying what you want/can among the 15 most expensive on the list of 23. To get in to the others, from the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, $24, to the Museum of the Moving Image, $10, you must pay. The last seven also suggest you pay, from the Museum of the City of New York [$10] to the Staten Island Museum [$3].

amermusnatlhistoryIn my sister’s care–she’s always been bold and brave–had we been children today she would have given what she could and we would have visited these favorites.

However I believe that there are many without the ability to pay who would be discouraged from going. [I also fear that those with ample incomes who relentlessly squeeze everyone and everything around them will pay $1 and not blink.]

In any case, someone has to pay for upkeep, security and adding to the collections of these venerable institutions. Visiting a museum isn’t as crucial as healthcare, food and shelter. What to do? Where to give? What to give up?


Service of Celebrity

Monday, May 23rd, 2011


I don’t rub shoulders with celebrities very often but you’d have to be living on a different planet if you didn’t read or hear of shenanigans and bad behavior from that quarter. Some believe their press and think that they are above others and act like spoiled brats. It doesn’t matter that they play, direct or write about humanitarians or that they publicly espouse charitable causes or support and speak out compassionately to save the less fortunate. I never met Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward or Alan Alda but get the feeling that they were/are exceptions. 

I met two other exceptions last week at The Christophers’ 62nd Awards ceremony. The King’s Speech was a winner in the feature film category and just happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Tom Hooper

Tom Hooper

Academy Award winners Tom Hooper, the director, and David Seidler, the writer, accepted the award. Neither was surrounded by battalions of handlers. I didn’t see any. Seidler was there toward the beginning of the cocktail reception prior to the ceremony and although deep in conversation with another guest, he happily and cheerfully joined several group photos when we asked him to.

David Seidler

David Seidler

And both men stayed for the entire ceremony. I have attended and produced countless events where the “very important” dash out the second their bit is over. With some exceptions [such as when a Mayor must attend a funeral or other unexpected emergency], this conduct for an event they’ve known about usually for months reminds me of the restaurant scenes in vintage films where a businessman or celebrity wannabe tips the maitre d’ to bring the telephone over to their table in the middle of a meal to show how in demand they are.

In fact, none of the 2011 Christophers winners slipped out. Hooper and Seidler were only two of the many writers, producers, directors and illustrators in the publishing, film, TV and cable industries whose work The Christophers recognized this–and every-year. The winners are selected because what they create “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” I think that the film works as well as it does because the writer and director are talented, sensitive and genuinely good souls. Incidentally, The Christophers’ programs are guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Do you know of or have you observed celebrities, the real or the hopeful, who act in ways that enhance their images rather than detract from them?


Service of Charity

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I wasn’t always this cynical, but I can’t help but cringe every time I hear a radio or TV station tell me to go to their web site to find legitimate resources that accept money to help Haitian earthquake victims. I similarly flinch when I see retweets of announcements that this or that organization, publisher or business is launching or supporting a fundraising drive.

For one thing, some of the stations that are promoting these “good works” are the very ones most of whose hosts can’t bear to part with a penny in taxes on their bloated incomes to help others. They celebrate the “free market system” that removed all the constraints that previously held banks, insurance companies and others in check, encouraging a dynamic of greed which in part accounts for the financial earthquake the world currently experiences.

So I smell a rat when they ask their listeners and viewers to go to their web sites-I see them translating each hit into future advertising dollars.

Can’t you just hear it? “Look at how generous and wealthy our audience is! Advertise with us and the same riches can be yours. Why, through our web site, we are responsible for collecting $X million to help this tragic situation,” all said with appropriately pious, self-righteous expressions. “Aren’t we wonderful?”

But that’s not all. In past crises, such as the horrendous tsunami in South Asia  in  2004, I donated money directly to a charity I knew was legitimate, only to be bombarded for years after with so many marketing pieces that I became frustrated and angry. I am certain that the cost of producing and mailing these pieces far exceeded the amount of my donation. I didn’t give money to support fundraising.

There are legitimate, truly well-meaning people and organizations. President Obama has charged Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush to bird dog disbursement and implementation as well as fundraise and help untangle the horrific crisis in Haiti. They hope to help a country down on its knees to stand tall on solid infrastructure. They, too, have a web site– Maybe this is an answer?

What’s a person to do if they want to support a cause, but at the same time they don’t want to add to the self-aggrandizing initiatives of a company or subsidize a fundraiser’s marketing department? Any ideas?

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