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MORE CHARITY, LESS OVERHEAD



Published: Thu, September 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



MORE CHARITY, LESS OVERHEAD

Los Angeles Times: Somewhere along the road, the fund-raising run for charity veered off course.

The races started as a fun way for people to do good. Runners paid an entry fee that went to the charity and got a free T-shirt. Nonprofits quickly realized they could make more money if the runners signed up relatives, friends and co-workers to "sponsor" them in the race. Then along came Dan Pallotta, the promoter who created the fund-raiser extravaganza concept in 1993. His multiple-day walks for charity and camping trip/bike rides came with traveling tent cities, good meals and hot showers, some in such exotic locations as Alaska and Africa.

Pallotta TeamWorks events swept the United States, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars until Pallotta last month abruptly closed the doors to his Los Angeles-based company amid complaints from nonprofits that the organizer -- a private for-profit company -- was getting too much of the money.

Some of these charitable groups sound a bit disingenuous, especially after they happily took money from Pallotta events during years of questions about how much of donors' money was swallowed up by event expenses. Pallotta's answer: You can't look at what percent goes to charity; you have to look at how much total goes to charity.

Most nonprofits found the situation perfectly acceptable until they saw their own bottom lines suffering -- such as when the 1997 Florida AIDS ride not only showed a miserable 12 percent going to charity but raised a disappointing $134,000.

Mobile hot showers

Nor is it correct to solely blame Pallotta's company. Participants' eyebrows should have gone up at the descriptions of his events. "Three dinners, four lunches, four breakfasts, mobile hot showers on tractor trailers " and far more, boasts his Web site, www.pallotta teamworks.com.

Take a look at the finances for the 2001 AIDS rides. Of the $18.8 million that donors gave, only $4 million eventually went to charity, whereas $6.6 million went to "participant support" -- more than a third. Other outlays include marketing and administration.

Should Pallotta TeamWorks go away permanently, it would leave behind a legacy of costly, misleading fund-raisers.

Even the venerable Arthritis Foundation has held "Joints in Motion" runs and walks in such locales as London and Paris. The foundation says it has no documents breaking down the expenses but that these three-to-five-day jaunts take up about a quarter of the money raised. Such events blur the line between charity and donor-subsidized mini-vacations.

Fund-raisers, even for-profit fund-raisers, should hold to the basic outlines for charities set out by the Better Business Bureau that call for 65 percent of the money to go toward charitable activities. Charities and event participants alike should be able and willing to tell donors upfront how much of the money will go to good works.

If fund-raising doesn't get back on track, nonprofits will have to shoulder some blame for public apathy to their appeals.

U.S SHOULD REJOIN UNESCO

Dallas Morning News: It's time for the United States to rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also known as UNESCO.

The United States had good reasons to quit in 1984. UNESCO was complicit in a drive by authoritarian countries for a "new world information and communication order" that would limit press freedoms. Its bureaucracy was bloated and top-heavy.

But UNESCO has changed. Press freedom groups now see it as an ally. (Indeed, five years ago UNESCO awarded its first annual press freedom prize to Gao Yu, a jailed Chinese economic journalist, over the Chinese government's strong objections.) It has taken the lead in rebuilding Afghanistan's schools, which under Taliban rule had served as incubators for hatred and terrorism. It has cut its staff and eliminated corruption and anti-Western bias. George Shultz, who as President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state led the U.S. departure, now supports rejoining.

First year's dues

The House of Representatives has approved $60 million for the United States to rejoin. The Senate has passed no such specific provision. When the bodies reconvene to try to reconcile their competing State Department authorization bills, they should agree to provide the money, which is roughly what the United States would need to pay its first year's dues. The Bush administration, which is reviewing the question of UNESCO membership, should signal its desire to rejoin.

In the war against terrorism, the United States must battle on many fronts, including the cultural and educational. On that front, it has two choices: to battle alone or with others. It should choose the latter. By rejoining, it would strengthen UNESCO. It would put itself in a position to leverage the resources of many countries to improve the flow of news, information and ideas, to prevent children from being brainwashed by religious extremists and to promote a positive image of itself and all that it represents.

Once a tool of censorship, UNESCO now is a champion of freedom. The United States should acknowledge the change and return to the organization it once rightly spurned.




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