United we fall

Online forum SomethingAwful managed to raise $27,695 to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Then suddenly, PayPal locked the account.

When someone finally managed to contact PayPal, they were informed that PayPal has an exclusive contract with United Way—and that United Way’s contract would not allow PayPal funds to be transferred to the Red Cross.

Yup: United Way and PayPal would rather block $27k in relief funds, than allow the money to go to the Red Cross. So the money had to be refunded.

A lot of people are blaming PayPal for this. They certainly deserve a big chunk of blame; but really, what kind of charity makes you sign contracts saying you won’t let people donate to competing charities? Can you imagine if your bank bounced a check because they had signed a United Way contract and you were trying to give to the Red Cross?

Please, I beg you: do not donate through United Way or PayPal. If you want to donate to charity, send the money directly to The Red Cross.

The United Way also fund bigotry—they give funds to organizations which practice deliberate discrimination on the basis of religion and sexuality. If your local United Way has a non-discrimination statement, don’t believe it—at least one regional United Way has continued to fund organizations that don’t comply with their written policy. You need to specifically check what organizations your chosen United Way is funding; for example, Austin’s United Way no longer funds the Boy Scouts as of July 2005—but in Ohio, the BSA is still getting money. It looks as if United Way regional groups cutting off the BSA Are the exception rather than the rule—even in Vermont some are still funding the BSA.

I’m all for religious freedom, but if you want to teach kids about your god, be honest about it and send them to your church. And don’t expect me to pay for it, and don’t try to con or force other people to pay for it.

To me, having to read through a list of grand recipients seems like a lot of hassle when you could give to a charity that focuses purely on funding things that are actually important, like feeding the starving, rather than one that may siphon off money to teach kids not to be gay and indoctrinate them to believe in Jesus. You can also check sites like Charity Navigator for advice on which charities use the funds effectively, and which ones waste them on overheads and fat executive paychecks. (Hello, American Cancer Society.)

The Boy Scouts of America are a pretty sleazy organization all round. Not only was their director arrested for collecting kiddy porn, they also lied about their minority membership to try and get more money from United Way, and the FBI is investigating whether they might have made up names to boost their membership. Many local BSA groups also lie that they will not discriminate in the hope of getting funding.