Thursday, July 17, 2008

Conflict of giving

Folks know that I've tried to honestly and accurately depict the concerns of the non-profit community with regard to OneAthens, particularly with its potential impact - or non-impact - on the fundraising efforts of various organizations in town. It was pointed out repeatedly that OneAthens will not be soliciting the same donors or funding sources as the area non-profits, nor will its mere presence have a negative impact on donations flowing to those groups.

However, I've heard several folks from the non-profit community since that post, and they're telling me just the opposite, and here are the two instances I've heard the most frequently ...

- OneAthens contacted Georgia Shares - a program run by the state government where employees can designate a portion of their paychecks to support various non-profits globally, nationally and locally - about enrolling in their program. Georgia Shares is used by a variety of current area non-profit organizations and it provides a steady stream of revenue for them.

- Athens First Bank and Trust has traditionally hosted a charity campaign that benefits up to six area non-profit organizations. The bank puts up $15,000 and lets customers match those donations over designated period of time, names a 'winner' and then distributes the money to those groups. In 2007 and 2008, this campaign was cancelled with little advance notice to the participating non-profits and, in 2007, the bank contributed a similar amount of money to OneAthens.

Now, I can concede that two instances don't make a pattern, but this does directly contradict the two claims I listed above regarding competing for funds directly and affecting the ability of other funders to give. Again, I'm not here to rain on OneAthens's parade, but it's beyond frustrating to have its leaders go around telling non-profits one thing and then completely doing another. From what I heard from those I spoke with, they're actually content with OneAthens becoming a player in the community, but their concern lies with what appears to be a dishonest and disrespectful approach to them.

If OneAthens wishes to compete for funds - or would at least acknowledge, as was the case with Athens First, that its presence will affect the actions of some donors - then it should be up front about it and not go around saying it won't.

3 Comments:

Blogger Nicki said...

re: Georgia Shares...Georgia Shares allows people to donate to something like 5,000 charities statewide, ranging from the small and local to the comprehensive and holistic. Unless OneAthens has declared an intent to not accept any individual donations, it's totally appropriate for them to seek to be included among the groups that are allowed to receive donations by that avenue.

As for Athens First, you could be right. But that would take inside knowledge that neither you nor I appear to have.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Unless OneAthens has declared an intent to not accept any individual donations, it's totally appropriate for them to seek to be included among the groups that are allowed to receive donations by that avenue.

Georgia Shares typically collects a large number of small donations - I would usually allocate less than $75 per pay check to divide among three to four non-profits during my time at UGA - to be distributed to various non-profits.

So, your response is a perfectly logical one coming from your perspective and the arguments you've been putting forth in these discussion. The problem, of course, is that OneAthens is saying something else ...

The foundation will enhance, not hinder, the efforts of other nonprofits, Porter said. The foundation is focusing on large donations from wealthy individuals and businesses, many of them out of town, not small donations or government grants, (Delene Porter) said.

Regarding this ...

As for Athens First, you could be right. But that would take inside knowledge that neither you nor I appear to have.

Again, this information comes to me from a variety of individuals who - rightly or wrongly - wish to keep their names anonymous, and it includes relaying information via their conversations with Athens First following the first cancellation.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The OneAthens Community Foundation will not attempt to join Georgia Shares -- the Board and staff are trying not to compete with local nonprofits.
Inevitably, if an institution or individual has limited funds and donates to OneAthens, it/he/she is not giving that money to someone else (or using it for another purpose). In the Athens First case, that is what appears to have happened. When soliciting funds, Judge Jones specifically asked all donors not to give what would have gone to local nonprofits, but to give a one-time additional donation to support OneAthens.
Of course, any donor has the right to give. All nonprofits are "taking" from other nonprofits if they accept donations that would have done to other nonprofits.
The OneAthens Community Foundation hopes to create an endowment that will fund its operations; after that, all donations will flow through to the community and not be used for operations. They are seeking out-of-Athens foundation and other support, but the reality is that until that endowment is there, some local donors will give to OneAthens money that they might have given to another nonprofit. Porter is very honest about this. Some of the comments that were made earlier in the process (not by her) saying that no OneAthens funds would ever be at the expense of other nonprofits were earnest but naive and contributed to the concern.

1:25 PM  

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