13 August 2010

Cranky About Chase Again

Remember how ornery I got back in December when Chase launched that Community Giving contest on Facebook?

Well, last month I got all cranky again. I opened my New York Times on Thursday, July 29, 2010 and found a full page ad from Chase, congratulating all thirteen winners from New York State. Seeing as I live in New York State, I work in not-for-profit, and I’d never heard of any of them, I decided to do a little poking around. This wasn’t the original contest; this was Chase’s second round – open only to small non-profits with annual operating expenses of under $1,000,000.

From Chase's Facebook page:

2.5 million people came together to give back in a big way!
Thank you for being part of the second Chase Community Giving! Because of what we did, 200 local charities will share in $5 million of donations!
By voting, inviting friends, and sharing your enthusiasm, you've helped communities all across the country! Together, we've shown the world what two and a half million people can do when they unite to do something amazing.
With a new focus on charities that serve their local communities, Chase Community Giving came back strong for Summer 2010. With another $5 million in donations, we're helping over 200 charities. 195 charities are receiving $20,000 each and four runners-up are receiving $100,000 each. The winning charity, HP Alliance of Somerville, MA is receiving $250,000. On top of that, the charities selected by our Advisory Board in the coming weeks will split an additional $500,000.
Chase Community Giving will be back soon. Keep coming back so we can do it again!

Out of pique, I made a spreadsheet of all of the 13 NYS winners, each of which got $20,000. The chart here shows how many votes each organization got, along with the expenses reported on their last tax return (and the date of the last tax return). [I got the tax returns, a/k/a 990s, via Guidestar - a great resource for information about charities and foundations. Guidestar gets the 990s directly from the IRS.]

Note that two organizations have not been filing tax returns - and therefore, because there's no return posted to Guidestar, there's no way to check the expense size of the organization. Of the 11 remaining that have been filing, four have reported expenses of under $100,000 - and one of those shows an expense budget of $17,853 - or less than the $20,000 Chase grant. That means that only seven out of thirteen have an expense budget in excess of $100,000. A $20,000 grant to an organization with annual operating expenses of under $100,000 is a distortion, and it's not sustainable - what are they going to do when they don't get that $20,000 next year?

Remember what I said in December?

But the problem is that it’s a popularity contest that rewards those organizations with the greatest social networking savvy and not those with the greatest impact and/or efficiency of operations. Arguably, a small organization with terrific grassroots skills but mediocre delivery of a dubious service could win a million bucks - and then fritter it away on pizza and airplane tickets. There's no vetting, no due diligence.

I'm not making judgments as to the worthiness of any of the winners - they may well be doing great work. But there's no evaluation as to fiscal responsibility or organizational stability, good governance and sound management. All they've proven is that they're good at getting their "friends" to vote for them on Facebook.


Harriet M. Welsch said...

Agreed. Although I've voted in this, I find the whole endeavor quite dubious.

Girlplustwo said...

oh, don't even get me started on Chase and it's self promoting ways.

kathy a. said...

good points. and ummmm, excuse me? there is another half-million that the chase people will divide up as they see fit?

i don't mind donations to good causes, really i don't. but that's a lot of other people's cash to be throwing around, with no discernable oversight.

Awesome Mom said...

Chase is teh ebil!

Seriously though they are a crappy bank. Everyone I know that had WaMu accounts left once Chase took over. They bought our car loan and made us jump though a ton of hoops if we wanted to pay more on our principle each month. It was a pain so we refinanced with a nicer company, one that did not try and nickle and dime us to death.

Gwen said...

I like cranky Maggie, even when she makes spreadsheets to prove her point. Blegh! Chase! You cannot have my money!

Life in Eden said...

I just love this, and the comments too. So glad I live in a world with you people in it. (I'm being serious, not sarcastic :)

painted maypole said...

now we are recognizing charities in the same we we are recognizing "talent" - by popular vote. arg.

allison said...

Also, I aspire to be as erudite in my crankiness.

Pearl said...

Wow. I love a smart woman.

Also, what allison said. :-)


MDTaz said...

I am rather disgusted by these "vote for me" competitions: The Pepsi Challenge, this Chase thing - it feels like it's only about driving traffic and promotion, it's not really about the cause. What happened to criteria for evaluation and the merit of an idea? Our world will soon be run by the masses and their volume of friends who are willing (or have nothing else to do) to go back to the page each day and click again. Thanks for your rant! I'm with you! Go girl!

Aunt Becky said...

I leave these contests alone. Honestly. I do. I don't promote, vote, anything, for them. They seem dubious at best, and if I'm going to donate, I do so with my money to the charities *I* support.

And this? Brilliant. Good call with the spreadsheet.

Life As I Know It said...

well said. I was thinking the same thing when everyone was asking their friends to 'vote for so and so charity!'...