Charity Madness - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Charity Madness

It’s that time of year again, when Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) “keyworkers” approach federal employees nationwide in their gentle solicitation of employees’ dollars to fund any number of a mind-boggling plethora of charities.

It’s an opportunity for us to enjoy even more deductions from our gross-income paycheck (in addition to FICA; Federal tax; state tax where applicable; medical-insurance payments; union dues where applicable; etc.), because the difference between what we earn and what’s deposited into our bank accounts on pay day can’t possibly be astonishing enough.

Everything, it seems, needs our charitable money (except, say, rocks, unless they’re part of a larger ecosystem that needs rescuing) to thrive, survive, or otherwise address an imminent problem, in part because our tax base has been rapidly shrinking at the hands of a ballooning and domineering DOD budget (check the numbers if you doubt this), and ever-increasing “tax cuts” – for the privileged among us.

But let us not lose sight of the fact that the CFC, instituted by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, functions strictly with the intention of providing funds for organizations that we hope do some form of good. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education and honorary chairman of the Combined Federal Campaign, points out that the Federal Employees have contributed nearly $7 billion through the campaign.

This article is not an indictment or criticism of any part of the Federal Government. Rather, this is a look askance at some curious entities that would ask for your money, in their own words.

The various CFC Web sites provide useful and important information regarding questions many of us have about charitable organizations, their purposes, their administrative overhead and their financial records. The Federal Office for Personnel Management (OPM) calculates a charity’s administrative and fundraising rate (AFR) as a “percentage of the organization’s total support and revenue.” According to the CFC, “The philanthropic community generally considers an AFR in excess of 35 percent to be problematic.” So, consider this when you choose to support a charity.

Following are some of the more unusual charities, for various reasons, mined from the depths of over 4,000 non-profit organizations seeking funds, per the CFC’s charitable listings. Curiously, only one of these charities, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, is Buddhist; four are Islam-related; and Christian charities are in excess of 75. The CFC lists no Mormon charities (explicitly, by name), they apparently having enough money given the mandatory 10 percent tithe of their members—as well as lucrative business holdings.

Cats on Death Row

Statement: “We rescue cats facing imminent execution if they do not get interim financial sponsors or foster parents or receive medical treatment required to become adoptable.” Most of us would consider “execution” and “Death Row” to be loaded words. This is not so unusual, but keep reading …

Alley Cat Rescue

Statement: “Stray, abandoned and feral cats are neglected. Healthy cats in shelters are killed. Your contribution helps us end feline overpopulation and suffering.” Okay, that’s two non-profits that do essentially the same function. Imagine what they could do if they joined forces. But it gets more interesting:

Alley Cat Allies

Statement: “Alley Cat Allies is the only national organization (emphasis mine) dedicated to protecting and improving cats’ lives. Help us transform the way our society cares for cats!” Apparently, no one told Alley Cat Allies about the ASPCA, the Humane Society,PETA or the two above-mentioned charities, for starters. Oops. How about a little truth in advertising, people?!

Gun Owners Foundation

Their statement: “Defending America’s unique constitutional right to keep and bear arms, through education and legal assistance in important firearms cases.” Doesn’t the NRA already do this? Can’t they all just get along? What’s surprising is the absence of a gun charity: “Help homeless firearms find warm and caring homes.”

Christian Bowhunters of America

This may have been previously named “Bowhunters for Jesus.” Seriously. Their statement: “National archery ministry using friendship evangelism to bring people to Christ. Wherever we go some join us and the Lord’s bowhunting ministry grows in strength.” Friendship ministry? This must be differentiated from the usual and more-aggressive in-your-face ministry so many of us enjoy when we answer that knock at the door.

Their AFR amounts to a whopping 23.7 percent.

Understandably, this “charity” – arguably really just a sporting club – garners its share of counter-interest. A video on YouTube claims that “Jesus loves deer,” ergo, “Stop Bowhunting.” The sad irony of this video is that the videographer has a clear shot at a plethora of deer – and fails to bag a single one!

Deer are arguably cute, assuming they aren’t eating your floral and/or veggie garden; or stepping, in herds, in front of your hybrid car as you glide ever so smoothly and silently down a highway, whereby the collision with which inflicts thousands of dollars’ damage to your slick ride. Or which kills you as they ramp off the hood and burst through the windshield.

This pious bow-hunting group has also spawned competitive off-shoot organizations, such as Bowhunters for Christ, headquartered in North Carolina. We can only hope for a Western-style (or gang-turf) shootout, using bows and arrows, when these klans fight over copyrights.

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Statement: “Empowering and equipping coaches and athletes with encouragement, resources and training to influence and impact the world for Jesus Christ for more than 55 years.”
The implication, of course, is that you can gain an athletic edge if you have Jesus on your side. Which has been show not to be true.

How many ways can a religion blend itself into just about any activity known to man? How about “Space Explorers for Islam,” or “Fellowship of Buddhist Cage Fighters.” Where do sporting events begin, and proselytizing leave off?

Missionary Athletes International

Statement: “Conducts Biblically based soccer camps, clinics, teams and international tours to meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of youth around the world.”
What, exactly, is a biblically based soccer camp? This looks more like an excuse to slip Jesus’s word into yet another sporting event. Do you think early Rome had a charity named, “Throwing Christians to the Lions for Jesus”?

Institute for Creation Research

Statement: “Science strongly supports the Bible’s authority and accuracy. With scientific research, education programs, and media presentations, we equip Christians to stand for the Truth.”

The greatest irony in this statement centers upon the words “truth” and “science strongly supports the Bible’s authority and accuracy.” No, it doesn’t; that’s a lie. A simple Google search reveals that the vast majority of scientists in the world are atheists, and even more are comfortable admitting that biblical mythology and science are unrelated, even mutually exclusive. How about a little truth in advertising, people?

Consider that a Federal judge, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, laughed out of the courtroom a party (Kitzmiller) intent upon pushing “instruction” in “intelligent design” into public schools, as an “alternative” to the widely accepted science of evolution. Intelligent design, by the way, and as you’ll recall, is nothing more than pushy Christians’ attempt to repackage creationism in their incessant attempts to storm public-school doors with biblical “education.”

But if you’re gullible enough to believe – or have “faith” in what– the ICR is selling, by all means, send them your wallet. And if you’re easy enough to believe the ICR, you likely don’t need money anyway. Just pray that your refrigerator is filled with food, and that your bills get paid.

It’s little wonder that religious organizations don’t tie their faith into specific fields of science, such as “Stem-Cell Solutions Mission,” or “Atom-Probe Tomography Bible Camp.”

Playpumps International

This charity appeared in earlier CFC campaigns but fell off the map when bad publicity, a la PBS’s “Frontline,” exposed serious problems with the charity.

The concept was simple: Install playground merry-go-rounds in African communities, with an added twist of attaching the rotation of the merry-go-round playground device to a pump mechanism that draws water from whatever water table can be found however many hundreds of feet into the African substrate. The idea is to reduce the labor involved in schlepping jugs of water from whatever surface sources are available, sometimes a day’s walk away.

Upon first reading about such a charity, the thoughtful among us may wonder: Given such a device, where does play leave off, and child labor begin? This question came to light eventually, after journalists uncovered problems with maintaining these things, and questioning their usefulness when limited water-table supplies ran dry, among other issues.

It turns out that the charity just didn’t have the infrastructure to deal with maintenance. Sadly, many, if not most, of these devices rot in disrepair where they were installed, macabre monuments to a good intention gone bad.

Ultimately, the merry-go-round pump devices generated quite a bit of uproar, as evidenced by a simple Google search.

These are but a tiny fraction of the many charities in the United States, and their causes, again, in their own words. Take a moment to entertain yourself; surf the online listings, read the mission statements, scratch your head, knit your brow. You may just stumble upon a charity worthy of your contribution.


About the author

Mark Forseth

Mark Forseth is a regulatory technical writer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle, Wash. His career has centered on public-broadcast journalism and technical writing for such industries as GE Medical; ABB Robotics; Harley-Davidson Motorcycles; Allen-Bradley Motion Controls; Johnson Controls; and Imago Scientific instruments, among others. Contact the author.
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