Thursday, 16 April 2015

Your Pocket Is Not A Good Cause

At the end of last month, the world was talking about the impact of Indiana's recently passed 'religious freedom' law. Memories Pizza was among the first businesses to take advantage of it to refuse to serve LGBT customers. After receiving a huge backlash of people refusing to support such discriminatory behaviour, the pizzeria quickly closed.

And was then suddenly thrown an enormous amount of conservative report. Fuelled by famed American bigot Rush Limbaugh, the pizzeria owners were gifted nearly $850,000 by homophobes across the US.

In reaction to that overwhelming hate, Pizza 4 Equality was founded.

It seems wonderful.

In response to people funding hate and bigotry, Scott Wooledge created the Pizza 4 Equality GoFundMe page to prove that there are more people who would support love and acceptance for non-heteronormative people then would continue to throw money at the late Memories Pizza. The aim was to raised more than $850,000 to put towards Cyndi Lauper's True Colours Fund, a charity which promotes equality for LGBT people. In particular, the money is said to be going towards tackling LGBT youth homelessness, as it is estimated that 40% of homeless youth in America are LGBT teenagers who have been shunned or disowned by their families because of their sexuality.

This is a wonderful idea. The way that this campaign has tried to bring people together is a beautiful example of how humanity can combat hate. I got really excited about it. I even started writing about it in a feel good, 'look at all the nice people doing nice things' style article for the website I regularly contribute to.

And to do that I did some research to make sure I had all the facts right.

And came across this PDF of Cyndi Lauper's True Colours Fund's tax exemption form from 2013, which is marked 'Open to Public Inspection'.

And I was disgusted.

On the front page of it, there is a breakdown of all the money raised for the charity and how that money is then spent.

In the 'Prior Year' section, the money is broken down quite responsibly. Out of a total of $732,141 raised, a reasonable amount was spent on staff salaries and other expenses, leaving a grand total of $418,678 that actually go towards LGBT support.

That's fantastic. That's a lot of money that goes towards providing help for people who are regularly and cruelly prejudiced against in American culture.

But it didn't last.

Look back at that same section of the page to the 'Current Year' section. In 2013, the True Colours Fund raised a hell of a lot more money than the year before - when combining grants and contributions, investment income and 'other revenue' reaching a total of $874,467. That's nearly $150,000 more than in 2012.

That's incredible.

So how did they only have $40,509 going towards LGBT support in the end?

It even says in that one small box, before you look into anything deeper, salaries and employee benefit costs rose in that year from $127,653 to $391,500. That's more than double the amount. There is also a mysterious $391,437 in 'other expenses' - again more than twice the amount spent in 2012.

How is it possible that a charity can raise more money than ever before, and still put less of it towards actually doing good? What is the point in actually being a charity if it puts so little of its proceeds towards making a difference in the world?

Page 10 of the PDF offers a breakdown of functional expenses, noting the $337,951 spent on salaries and wages, on top of the $142,000 salary, plus nearly $8,000 in benefits of Executive Directer Gregory Lewis (found on page 7). Along with spending over $36,000 on 'office expenses', nearly $29,000 on 'information technology' and almost $53,000 on 'travel', their largest expense of $181,243 is categorised under 'Fees for services: Other'.

This is unbearably vague and an insult to the people who have donated money in good faith to this charity. It's disgusting behaviour and it exploits the people that the charity is supposed to support and the people who want to help do that. A lot of money is getting thrown away on unidentified, miscellaneous nothing.

There is no way that this is an acceptable way to use money that people have given specifically to further what is supposed to be a good cause.

And while the True Colours Fund is far from the only charity doing it, it is one that is currently claiming to be making a conscious effort to stand up to exactly that kind of exploitation. At least Memories Pizza was honest about its seediness.

Often, when people want to do something nice within the world, they put money towards a charity that they believe stand for something worth believing in. If the charity then keeps that money, no good is done. People who are entrusted with doing good in the world are doing nothing more than abusing the kindnesses of others. It's morally despicable.

People who want only to do a good deed should not have to do tons of background research into charities to make sure that the money will actually go to a good cause. The money simply should. It shouldn't be an option that it goes into someone's pockets.

It's fair to pay charity CEOs and Directors and whatever other big administrative roles pull in such huge cheques a comfortable amount of money, because their job is important in making a difference in the world. But when it leaves so little left to the actual charity, they may as well not bother running a charity at all. For all the good it really does.

No comments:

Post a Comment