United Way policy

When I first began serving as a United Way volunteer with Lycoming County United Way in 1966, the program was simple and straight forward. Organizations would apply for membership as a United Way agency and if they met the required qualifications, they would be considered for membership.

Those accepted would be included as member agencies in the forthcoming campaign. It made sense to the donors and to the 20 to 25 organizations to have on fundraising appeal. Funds that were raised during the fall campaign were distributed to the member agencies during the following year. An allocations committee met following the campaign to determine the amount of money that would be allocated to each agency.

When I became involved with Union County United Way in the 1990’s, “donor designation” became an optional method for donors to direct their contributions. Although unrestricted contributions were strongly encouraged, donors could elect to have all or part of their contributions designated for one or more member agency. Although this option became popular with some donors, I thought then, and I still do today, that donors who want to support a specific organization should make their contributions directly to that organization.

Fast forward to the issue that exists between Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way and Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America. The GSVUW board coted to withhold $11,000 in discretionary funding to the Boy Scouts after the national scouting organization voted to allow openly gay youths as members, but not openly gay adults. Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America was one of the member agencies included in the 2012 GSVUW campaign. Therefore, individuals and businesses that made contributions to the 2012 campaign in good faith had every right to expect that their contributions would be given to the Boy Scouts regardless of whether the contributions were specifically designated to the Boy Scouts or were part of the $11,000 discretionary funding earmarked for the Boy Scouts.

Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way should not raise funds on behalf of a member agency and then withhold discretionary funds allocated to that agency. Any change in the relationship between Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way and Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America should be reflected in future campaigns, not in the allocations of funds raised during the 2012 campaign.

Bob Harder