A thought that occurred to me late last night while I was trying to fall asleep: are we now going to wage a rainbow ribbon war? Was the whole Komen debacle just the beginning of something huge, something that could bring a whole slew of charities to their metaphorical knees? Have we hit a pinnacle of compassion fatigue and donor apathy, and will look for any and all excuses to not donate?
It’s not just Komen. Look at all the ribbons out there, the colors connected to individual causes. Pink for breast cancer is probably the most noticeable, but there’s a plethora of ribbons out there. Blue for prostate cancer. Purple for cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalgia, and a dozen other things. Red for AIDS and heart disease. Orange for MS and leukemia. Violet for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Gold for childhood cancer.
And on and on and on.
The organizations behind them all need money.
One of the things that keeps coming at me in the last few days has been indignant utterings of “Did you see how little goes to research?” usually followed by percentages. Twenty per cent. Twenty two. Thirty. Oh my God, only ten cents of every dollar we raise!
Some complaints have come from people who walked the 3 Day and who are—and perhaps rightly so—offended that they’re spending so much time and effort training and fundraising and then getting out there for the actual walk, only to have their work minimized by the idea that of the $2300 they raise it might be that only $230 makes it to the research they’re praying will find a cure.
People are looking closely at the numbers, and while right now I think a lot of it is caught up in rhetoric and emotion (so maybe only 20% goes to research; there’s still money that goes to treatment and education, those numbers are being kind of shoved aside at the moment, but they do add up), I have a gut feeling it’s not going to end with Komen.
The problem, though, is that what I’m hearing from upset donors is that if 100% of their money doesn’t go exactly to what they assumed it would, they’re never donating again.
There is no 100% in donating. Like it or not there are always going to be administrative costs; there will always be some divide of funds across multiple venues. You might like where 50% of it goes, accept where 25% goes, and hate where the remainder goes. And that’s whether it’s for breast cancer, MS, heart disease, lymphoma… No one will ever be completely satisfied with the breakdown of funds distribution.
And right now, with emotions running high over Komen’s major fumble, I suspect most of the major charitable organizations are going to suffer for it.
I hope not, but I can see it happening.
A worthy cause is still a worthy cause; I might not like that a small percentage of my donation to Charities Iz Us goes towards a bloated administrator’s salary, or that a penny on every dollar goes to operations, or even that a quarter of a penny pays JimBob McBozobrain to stand on the sidelines with his megaphone and pom poms while he cheers the people doing grunt work, but if the majority of the money goes towards the actual cause—research, treatment, grant funding, medicines—then I can live with it.
Worthwhile charities are like a classic painting. People are getting close and squinting hard to see the little details, but sometimes you really do just have to step back to take in the whole picture. Nothing will ever be perfect…but when you soak it all in, you can see the absolute beauty in what you’re looking at, and those few errant brushstrokes don’t take away from the whole thing.
The greater good, and all that…