Live United: Respect privacy of recipients when donating to United Way

Published 8:11 pm Friday, December 11, 2020

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Live United by Erin Haag


This week has illustrated the full range of my job. It’s a strong mixture of my admittedly non-professional graphic design skills, media interviews, financial paperwork, prepping for the annual audit and moving furniture skills. You’d be surprised how much my job requires me physically moving furniture. The heating pad and I are dear friends.

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This week, we received a generous donation. We’ve been working with a single mother who left a domestic violence situation with her four children. Yesterday, we were able to connect her with a Christmas tree, and a couch and chair for her living room. Donors don’t always see that end result, but I’m here to say that it matters. It truly matters.

Erin Haag

At times, there are people who call me for a list of families in need. The objective is that they want to help the families by providing them with gifts for Christmas, food, clothing, etc. The catch is they don’t want a middleman. They want to give it themselves. Often they use the reasoning of “be an example to my children.” Last year, I had an individual offer coats — but only if she could meet the people directly, and have their phone numbers, etc.  I invited her to set up a table at the Winter Gear Drive, with a sign stating that her company was sponsoring that table. She refused, saying that didn’t fit with her personal journey, and she required the person in need to call her personally. 

I’m never going to discourage giving, but I do discourage this type of conditional giving. A local pastor made a comment about that being about ego, and that has stuck in my head. We all want to see our dollars at work. We all want to hear those success stories. It’s proof that we’re doing good, and with worries about the appropriate usage of dollars, it’s understandable. But why does giving have to have conditions such as this? Why do we need to demean our fellow human beings, strip them of their privacy, of their dignity?

I’m not talking about requiring proof of need. That’s an essential part of our job. There are times when we’re able to say, “No questions asked,” such as our pop-up pantries. Other times, we do need to have some conditions to ensure our limited resources are going to those most in need. That’s the job of agencies, though — not of donors. Agencies can share information about the successes without invasion of privacy. We can also match with what you request. Maybe you want to connect with a senior, or with a young family. That type of connection is just fine. Requiring face to face interaction before you’ll give — that’s when I would gently ask the donor to examine their reasons for doing so. 

However, perhaps there’s room for compromise. I’ve been researching programs that would allow for interaction between donors and families needing assistance, but only at the choice of both parties. My list of 2021 UWFC resolutions is getting longer by the day.

Currently, I only have one community shout-out for winter gear. We’re looking for women’s size 6 boots. I’ve worked with this woman before, helping her get connected with resources for her daughter who is living with a chronic disease. She shared with me that she’s hoping for boots that are “easy on and easy off.” With a health condition that affects her breathing and mobility, she struggles with bending over at times.

Nikolle asked me to put a community shout-out for our office. We could use some items such as floor lamps, a good vacuum cleaner, bungee cords and zip ties, and some basic tools. We received a donation of a clothing rack, but we may need another. The clothing rack should be on wheels. If you happen to have an old mailbox or other type of weather proof way for me to put papers outside, that would be helpful. These are all items that would help us be more efficient in our job, and make the most of our time and space.

Next week, I’ll include information on the Gift of Lights Tour. A map will be published on social media, our website and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to have a cute decorative weatherproof way to store the maps outside the UWFC office (and pledge cards!). If you’re crafty, we’ve been building our Kindness Rocks garden bit by bit — and I think it’d be a great addition, as well as a resource.  Give us a call at 373-8670 for more information or to meet a need!

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.