Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Understanding Non-Profits and False Perceptions

So a lot of interesting things have been coming up in my non-profit work that kind of reflect upon society in general. At this present moment my instinct to start listing things to keep "on track" of my thoughts has kicked in. I will attempt to resist the urge to make things that logistical and just wing-the blog with whatever comes up first. 

The first thing that kind of needs to be acknowledged is one that most United Wayans would try to duck. 

I'm talking about this thing: 

Kudos to Snopes.com for posting a contradiction of clarity to this since a lot of this information sin't actually true. But unfortunately the internet and people reading it don't tend to fact-check and care for truth, so what do you do if you work for one of these non-profits? 

My response is this: If somebody came up to me and said, "Why should I trust United Way or give money to them given this post?" 

I'd say, "Then don't." 

I STILL don't know what United Way Worldwide does -other than tracking financials of all the other United Ways. And the fact is some of the "franchised" United Ways operating pretty independently of UWW have gotten in trouble for raking in more money for themselves than actual charity. 

Be word of caution would be to acknowledge not all United Ways are the same. This is something I've been acknowledging a lot of over the past 2 days. For whatever reason my United Way got tasked with the duty of collecting ALL of the other United Ways' (across the U.S.) list of Partner Non-Profits they donate funding to with their EIN numbers to be sent back to UWW for tracking and accounting. 

New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Chicago, and Wisconsin are over-achievers and partner with 200+ (400+ for NY) different non-profits. 

Other United Ways keep it simple and just fund themselves and their own internal programs. 

Then there's the variety of causes they donate to because they aren't forced to pick just one. 

My United Way focuses on Poverty Alleviation -which includes Early Education, At-Risk Youth Support, and Adult Sufficiency. 

Kansas United way tends to focus on HEALTH -Cancer, Chrons, American Heart Association... you name it. 

New York is kind of weird and 90% of its partners are Catholic and Christian organizations. 

California tends to focus a lot on counseling, relationships, and empowerment. 

Special Kudos to Boston, MA's United Way for focusing on Community Development -which holistically takes whole communities and tries to move them out of poverty. Also the only United Way with partner non-profits focusing that much on public policy and legislation so the systemic contributing factors to various issues can be addressed on a legal basis as well. 

Alabama focuses a lot of Disaster Relief (because of flooding) and Mental Challenges. People make a lot of jokes about the south having issues with mental challenges and stuff, but when you really see that it is a legitimate issue the south in particular is facing there's this kind of reaction of "That must be an issue there that's either largely invisible here or far more prominent there and I'm glad they're addressing it." A lot of the people receiving those services are children. 

Speaking of children -New Jersey in particular has a lot of partner non-profits focusing on abused children, domestic violence, and sexual assault. 3 million kids a year are victims of sexual abuse. 60% off all pregnant teens have been victims of sexual abuse. What is WRONG with this world???! And it disturbs and troubles me to no end that our justice system turns a blind eye to abusers and does very little to keep children safe. 

***Special acknowledgment to Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix Arizona. This is the most highly commendable, well-thought out United Way in terms of its partnerships with non-profits. Arizona has 2 unique issues they're facing in particular: Human Trafficking and Illegal Immigration and they handle both circumstances in a positive way that embetters their entire community. They don't hide from or evade these issues, they address them as well as many others. They take a genuinely holistic approach to addressing things like Poverty, Cancer/Aids, Disabilities, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Veterans + Senior Citizens, and many other concerns their cities are facing. They don't just go "broad spectrum" in treating these issues, they are very mindful of the best non-profits to align with to address them. 

So this excel sheet I'm working on has every state, and every United Way within that state -which is also eye-opening because it turns out some states are slacking on their UWays where other ones are thriving. Kind of like how Starbucks never quite made it all the way over to the East coast and gets scarcer and scarcer as you head in that direction. 

So no 2 United Ways are the same. In fact there's little consistency. What does the one in your area focus on, because as far as I can tell they're a great way to measure the real issues facing your community as a whole. 

I'm pretty sure Denver is eventually going to partner with some non-profits that focus on car accidents and pedestrian safety because people here suck at driving and cross the street whenever they feel like it. 

And most UWays are oblivious to other ones -let alone what non-profits they're partnering with. It's a mystery. 

Then today ran into a crappy situation with a couple other United ways I reached out to. I asked for their partner list and the EINs of those non-profits. 2 people responded to me by saying, "We don't give that information out. You can have the list of agencies but NOT the EIN. I don't even give ours out..." 

An EIN for those who don't know is the equivalent of a numerical "Name" for a non-profit -NOT a social security number or PIN for your bank account. These EINs are public knowledge -as they are required to be. You can go on Wikipedia or Charity Navigator most times and find it on your own. Sometimes they even put the EINs on their own non-profit websites.

So then I'm left with the task of attempting to discern if the non-profit they've listed is the NATIONAL non-profit or the LOCAL branch of that non-profit. Salvation Army doesn't tell me which one in particular you are referring to. And some of the names they gave me were more like nicknames for the non-profits, not their official titles. 

So I end up having to sift through 46 partner non-profits for 1 United Way and then 42 partner non-profits for another out of my list for 5 total United Ways in one state alone. Frik!!!!

The other thing people don't realize is a lot of non-profits have similar names. You can have one called "Company ABC of the Rockies" and another called "Rockies ABC Company". And they can even do similar things. Frik!!! 

Hopefully tomorrow goes a little more smoothly and I don't have to play detective and go looking around case by case for all the EIN numbers. 

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