Why I’m against the United Fund

WILLIAM P. JENKINS January 19 1957

Why I’m against the United Fund

WILLIAM P. JENKINS January 19 1957

Why I’m against the United Fund



I write with trepidation because I know that I am attacking "virtue,” "charity” and “success.” It is not so damning to attack virtue and charity for we like a bit of naughtiness and we all like to be tough, but success is the sacred cow of our society. And the United Fund drives held in Canada last fall were successful. They are typified by the drive in Toronto which lined up eighty-nine charitable and social agencies and went out for $7,198,511.00. They raised $7,280,450.00. Success! And who dares to question a seven-million-dollar success? Well. I do. But before 1 raise my ugly doubts I want to pay tribute to the untiring effort of the people who organized and carried out these United Fund drives. They are earnest people with high ideals. They are concerned that the poor and the sick, the unfortunate and downtrodden should be cared for. 1 know many of these people and 1 respect their motives and their hard work. But 1 think they are misguided in taking this method to reach their objectives.

We are told that our charitable and social institutions will be best supported by a united, one-shot, money-raising drive. We won't be badgered by forty or fifty appeals. This will save time, effort and money. It will practically make charity painless. Any program that saves time, money and pain in these days is good! Or is it?

Where does your money go?

One of the very first evils of a united drive of this kind is its anonymity. You give without knowing what you support. What canvasser could name eighty-nine agencies, or describe the functions of half of them? The Toronto appeal listed a church home for the aged (what church home?), the Humcwood House Association (is this a housing project or what?), the Women’s Patriotic League (is this a charity?). I find that these are all worthy institutions, but you wouldn’t know it. Giving under this kind of mass appeal is ignorant giving and in my book that’s had! There is no longer a personal interest in a particular cause; no longer a sense of participation; just a painless parting with one’s dollar. This is one reason why the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and others have refused to co-operate in United Funds. In business and industry your charity dollars are taken out of your pay cheques so that you are hardly aware that you're giving at all. This method of giving deprives us of our sense

of responsibility to our fellow man.

The idea behind this kind of giving saps at the roots of democracy as does the means by which the idea is carried into effect. A great deal of money is not raised by voluntary giving but by the pressures of prestige and conformity. You do not give because you want to but because you must keep up public appearances or because your boss says you must cooperate (or else!) or because the union executive has approved.

I know an office worker who balked at paying. There were no direct threats from the boss, but a few cold glances and subtle remarks made her decide that she would hold her job longer if she gave her “share.” An engineer in a large plant raised some serious questions about this mass subscription technique and was regarded as a two-headed monster by management and employees alike. I know of one industry and one educational institution that refused to co-operate in the mass-assessment technique, and held out even in the face of terrific pressure. I am sorry that I cannot name these individuals or institutions but I dare not subject them to further pressures.

This is, in short, not giving but taxation-bad taxation because it’s taxation without representation. Your official taxes arc assessed by public representatives elected by you. You at least have an indirect voice in deciding the purpose and amount of your taxes. But you have no voice in deciding what agencies will be admitted to the United Appeal. You have no voice in deciding who gets how much. Your favorite charity is at the mercy of a body over which you have no control. Conversely a large share of your contribution may go to organizations of which you disapprove (or of which you would disapprove if you knew what they were doing). I am opposed to taxation by social, business or economic pressure; I am especially opposed to taxation without representation.

“We’re made social outcasts if we don’t support the United Fund”

Let me say here that the apportionment of funds has been fair up to date. But as time goes on it is not inconceivable that some organizations, especially the smaller ones, will get less than they should. I here will also be a tendency on the part of the fund to dictate conformity to its preconceived principles of social behavior. I am suggesting that the United Fund will develop rigidity. A new agency working on new sociological theories will have difficulty in obtaining any funds or even in gaining community recognition. A few timid sociologists and social workers have already expressed this fear, that the sociological methods of I960 will be barred from practice by the vested agencies of the United Fund.

I should like to come back now to the fund-raising methods to examine the prestige structure supported by the United Funds. The United Funds of course are not unique in this aspect of money raising. Virtually all fund-raising campaigns for benevolent purposes are based on the good old Canadian assumption (here we even excel the Americans) that the public is comprised largely of dollar-worshiping sheep. So if you get the men-with-money and the companies-with-money to give first, all else will be added unto you. Hence the newspapers print names and photos of wealthy donors with the amounts they give. There is always a photo of the head of a department store shaking hands with a happy employee over the caption: “Department Store

Gives $75,000.” We are never told the incomes of the wealthy men or the profits of the big business so that we can compare the measure of the gift with our own because we do not dare make a laughing stock of money and success. After the big money is tapped we go after executives. Executive is a flattering term for a non-union employee who earns six thousand dollars or more per year.

After we have tapped the big money and the executives and taxed labor and white-collar workers, we get down to the bottom of the prestige ladder and canvass the housewives. (I am confused about my own status. I earn more than six thousand dollars but I was canvassed with the housewives.)

This pattern is a shocking revelation of the values we hold important. It shows that we are a caste society dedicated to the worship of money and success. Wc cannot blame the fund raisers for the method they use; we can only blame ourselves. But isn't it a pity that we do not give for love’s sake, but only for favor’s sake? This caste attitude runs so deep in our society that it will take more than a change in fund-raising methods to correct the evil. But it saddens me to think that we cannot even give to help the unfortunate among us without placing caste and prestige first.

This whole approach to giving also reveals a trend toward conformity that runs very deep in our life. We worry about the Communists and rightly so. But few of us are concerned with the drives toward conformity in our own country. Our clothing, our cars and our homes are standardized. We are tending

toward the one-party system in politics. Religious conformity is growing apace. And now even our charity is being regimented. We are made social outcasts if we do not support the United Fund. In Kansas a successful insurance man was forced out ot business because he refused to conform. In Toronto school children were told by their superiors that they must buy tickets to a United Appeal football game. One of my parishioners threatened to leave the Church after I preached a sermon on this subject.

And if we do support the United Fund we are compelled to support agencies we do not believe in. Protestant is compelled to support Catholic, Catholic to support Jewish, and Jewish the rest of us. This would be all right if these denominational agencies were strictly service and charitable organizations, but with most of them religious teaching and practice and dogmatic propaganda are tied in with charitable work.

One of my pacifist friends is opposed to the Boy Scouts because he thinks it a militaristic organization. Yet if he gives a United Fund contribution he willy-nilly supports this organization. Why can’t we be free to make our own choices in at least one small area of life?

It is to the everlasting credit of the Salvation Army and a few other organizations that they chose in the face of strong criticism to stay out of United Funds. They want their gifts made on a voluntary basis. They want their donors to be informed of the nature of the work being done. They believe that the gift without the giver is bare: they want the heart to go with the pocketbook.

But T can hear a chorus of voices saying, "These agencies and organizations cannot raise sufficient funds in any other way." This is not entirely true. Some organizations like the Red Cross were coaxed into this scheme for the very

reason that they have done very well at raising money. For the others I have a solution.

Health and welfare organizations, including hospital groups. Big Brothers.

Children’s Aids, family agencies, and

others, should get their funds from taxes. These are not charities; they are community necessities. And we all know

that they are. Who would deny help to the ill and stricken? Who would deny care to the unmarried mother and her child? Who is not convinced of the need to solve the problems of delinquency? Let us have the courage then to have these public institutions supported by taxation —taxation in which we have a voice and vote. If we do this the cost will he less and bureaucracy reduced.

For the other organizations that fall into the categories of charity and noble uplift. I say let them ask for their own funds. If you will, let them compete for the public’s dollar. It baffles me that the champions of free enterprise and competition in the market place are the very people who fear competition in this field. Let these organizations tell their stories and prove their value. If some of them fail then it’s because they are not wanted. or because they are unworthy. And what’s wrong with that?

Only such an approach to the problems of Community Chest and United Fund can maintain personal integrity and public democracy, it