Aug 31 2007

The Blount County United Way has made much of it's kickoff. And, as most know it strives to do a lot of good with many deserving organizations. But it sure seems strange how a non-profit organization would lead its fund-raising charge with a host of politically-charged Republicans. The object is to bring in as many dollars as possible to help the UW's member agencies, not to politicize the campaign and risk losing donations from those who have serious issues with the highly questionable financial shenanigans of the group unaffectionately being tagged "Bennett & Co."

Let's see, Bennett, Blount Republican party chair, is "chair" of the United Way campaign. Julie Talbott, who works in Bennett's office, is chairing the United Way Day of Caring. Disgraced Circuit Court Clerk, Tom Hatcher, also a Republican, is chairing the UW's Hamburger Luncheon. Now, you'll note Commissioner Mike Lewis is chairing the UW's Golf Tournament, and yes, he is a Republican. But, in his defense, he's been involved in charity golf tournaments for many years, and is a relative newcomer to politics. He's still trying to figure out all this political stuff.

With all due respect to the United Way, this smells kinda stinky. And, the UW administration and Board of Directors should have seen the writing on the wall. Then again, maybe they did, and went with the political angle anyway. Either way, this year, donations from this wallet will be given directly to the member-agencies. It doesn't make sense to send money through an organization that leads a major campaign with politics instead of keeping its eye focused on its mission of helping those with real needs.



You are

Wow - enough with the stinging intellect. Are you referring to yourself? While "idiot" isn't much of a start, you obviously made it to the keyboard. Care to expound on your opening word?

I have had this same concern

Not being a Republican, I will have to admit that I discounted United Way this year. Just figured they must not want my money, if they are putting the Chairman of the Republican Party in as the chairman of THEIR party. However, if you look at Bennett's UW blog ((link...)) there are many worthy charities that need this money. I think you are correct that the thing to do is contribute to those groups directly and skip UW as the "middle man."

Unless they want to be fair and balanced and choose someone from the leadership of the local Democrat Party for next time they need a chair??

By the way, Commissioner Mike Lewis is on the Board of Directors still: ((link...))

I have heard the scuttlebutt that Bennett is supposedly considering a run for Mayor, and not to knock his personal motivation or anything, but wonder if it wasn't a step on the ladder to advance his career toward politics. When does his term as chair of UW end?

I don't necessarily think

I don't necessarily think that there is a political motivation or agenda among UW or its participants and supporters.

It's traditionally been an easy, organized way for businesses to contribute to charitable organizations, and to generate a little PR and community good will in the process. Because most business people are conservative, the local business and government scene is pretty much dominated by Republicans so it's not surprising they dominate the local UW organization. I thought it had pretty much always been that way.

(I wonder if there are any progressive communities out there somewhere in America where local government and business are mostly Democrats, and how UW fares in those communities?)

That said, I always prefer to give directly to the charities and cut out the middle man. And to me, the UW program is more like a team sport that pits donor against donor and company against company and creates a lot of unnecessary and sometimes unfair pressure on employees to ante up. The whole competitive atmosphere, while good for increasing the rake I'm sure, is a little unseemly.

And when it's time to fund local charities, I'm guessing there's a lot of internal organizational politics involved as various factions jockey for position. That can also be avoided by giving directly to the charities you wish to support.

But I'm not necessarily knocking UW. If that's the best way to get local businesses involved in supporting local charities in the community, so be it.

A little over the top...

They may not have intended to make a statement, but they certainly should have anticipated that one would be made. One tends to think of charity as a non-partisan concern.

One tends to think of

One tends to think of charity as a non-partisan concern.

Yep. It would be nice if they would reach out to the progressive community to fill some of the leaderhip positions.

See for yourself

Good Discussion. Now, how many of the above named people, er...Republicans can you spot in the UW's Kickoff video? It could also be called the "Bennett for County Mayor Kickoff" campaign.
Prepare yourself--it's pretty awful cinema. Here's the URL you can cut & paste it into your browser: (link...)

no so fast

I don't necessarily think that there is a political motivation or agenda among UW or its participants and supporters.

You are correct. Insert Blount County between "among" and "UW" and you are not.

"United" is the key word

I understand how it may seem that United Way is very Rebuplican heavy in it's current campaign. Consider the following:

1. This is East TN and there are far more Republicans than other party politicos. The fact that many of the campaign staff are Republicans is meerly a reflection of Blount County as a whole.

2. Any fundraising organization has to consider popularity, name recognition, and ties to potential major donors when considering someone to chair a fundraising campaign. If you are willing to volunteer to help don't wait for United Way to "reach out to the progressive community". Call them! They will gladly put you to work!

3. Most individuals don't donate to any of the agencies who receive funds from United Way. Most of the major donations to an agency come from only about 10% of a county's residents. The agencies themselves have limited resources to solicit donations from the large pool of individual donors adn corporations that United Way can reach. So every dollar that United Way raises is extremely appreciated by the receiving agencies who have limited funding sources for their programs. If you can give directly to the charity of your choice, then great. I hope you do so. Most people don't. Employee giving to United Way is the easiest way to promote supporting local organizations.

4. Breaking apart the intent of anyone willing to give of their time to head a campaign or associated event is counter-productive to the intent of the "United" Way. It is a huge committment by these volunteers and they should be given more credit than to speculate that there is some political conspiracy.

Finally...for a disclaimer...I have volunteered for United Way in different counties and donated to their campaigns. I have worked in social services for almost 20 years and understand the value of United Way's support. I don't care what party any of the chair persons' belong as long as their efforts enhance United Way's mission. I am not a Republican and I vote regularly.

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