Viewpoint and Counterpoint provide a forum for informed debate of issues of wide interest to the philanthropic sector. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.
[The following letter was received by John M. Hodgson, Q.C., author of “United Way, Where Are You Leading Us?” and is reprinted with Anne Goldens permission.]
Dear Mr. Hodgson:
We read with interest your article in The Philanthropist, “United Way Where Are You Leading Us?”. While we appreciate your interest in the important role of this organization, your historical perspective, and your obvious caring for the institutions in the voluntary sector, I feel that I must comment on some of your observations and conclusions.
You state that we are “significantly changing the focus of our involvement from operational funding… to a generalized project and public service program”. This is not correct. Under our new allocations strategy we will indeed be providing program-specific funding in certain cases, but we certainly do not anticipate a major shift from our traditional position as a core funder. Designations to Charities You indicate that donors who designate a gift to a charity of their choice will incur “…a potential discount of approximately 13 percent to pay the overhead and operating expenses…”. This statement has no basis in fact. The Tomorrow Fund First, I must comment on your claim that we publicly announced “a massive commitment of time and resources” to this endeavor. Nothing could be further from the truth-as always, our resources are modest by anyone’s standards. Second, you say that we use the model of a community foundation, accepting funding for any charitable purpose. You go on to say that United Way “must anticipate that most of the donations it receives will be designated for organizations other than the social service agencies of Greater Toronto”. I do not believe that you would have made these claims if you had read our materials or had spoken with us. In fact, all Tomorrow Fund promotional materials make clear that the fund’s primary focus is the social service sector. More than 98% of the funds received and commitments made to date were intended by the donors for social service causes.
The Tomorrow Fund is not a community foundation (and I should add that, under its new management, we look forward to a very positive relationship with the Community Foundation of Greater Toronto). The goal of our Tomorrow Fund is to assist the long-term stability of the social service sector. As I am sure you are aware, many United Ways in North America operate harmoniously with an annual campaign and an endowment program. Each is a successful balance between the “chequing account” (the annual campaign) and the “savings account” (the endowment). Experience to date suggests that they complement, rather than jeopardize, one another.
Social services are, and will continue to be, in crisis. We would be derelict in our responsibility not to respond to the crisis as actively as we possibly can. One of the tools we are using is an endowment program.
Mr. Hodgson, I hope that we may consider you a friend of United Way. If you have plans to write about United Way in the future, we hope that your research will include a review of all appropriate materials as well as discussions with representatives of our organization. If you are interested in learning about our organization and the Tomorrow Fund, we would welcome an opportunity to meet with you.
President, United Way of Greater Toronto