United Way's bottom line

Roger Downey had to be creative to find a negative twist to United Way of King County's (UWKC) astounding success over


"So when you've wrecked your new Lexus and you're being loaded into an ambulance with bleeding eye sockets, take a moment to remember I'll be smiling over you from my window bus seat...."

United Way's bottom line

Roger Downey had to be creative to find a negative twist to United Way of King County's (UWKC) astounding success over the last few years ("Selling giving," 1/27). The bottom line is that more dollars are going into the UWKC's "Safety Net" (the fund for the 161 United Way-funded organizations such as the YMCA, Childhaven, food banks, and dozens of other health and human service organizations) in absolute and relative terms. The fact is that by encouraging people to designate to their specific charitable desires, they've caused people to look harder at nondesignated giving directly into the Safety Net. By encouraging all forms of giving, people such as myself have been encouraged to study the approach behind the Safety Net to understand the impact of designated vs. nondesignated giving.

What I learned was that UWKC had invested an immense number of volunteer and staff hours to review and investigate the needs of the community so that the dollars flowing in had the broadest possible impact. While I'm knowledgeable of a few charitable organizations, there are a vast number of excellent charities that I don't have time to investigate myself. Identifying those organiza- tions, in my view, is one of the key value-adds of the United Way staff and volunteers. Meanwhile, they've steadily driven down their "overhead" costs to be amongst the lowest in the country, and that's steadily being eliminated as UWKC's endowment funds the overhead. It's hard to understand how any of these things can be anything but positive for the community.



Out in the cold

United Way of King County has a short memory (see "Selling giving," 1/27). Before the scandalous behavior of William Aramony, our United Way chapter had already alienated a substantial portion of its donors and forced us into "designated giving." I don't remember the year, but our United way chapter succumbed to pressure created by the Catholic church and expelled Planned Parenthood from the United Way fold. I do remember that the following spring, Planned Parenthood sent a thank-you to the University of Washington faculty and staff because collectively we had pledged $77,000—more money than they would have collected from us had they been able to remain under the United Way umbrella.

This act of expulsion by United Way did more to change my giving than the later scandal. I still give, but what once would have been a United Way donation is now split fifty-fifty with Planned Parenthood.

United Way forced me to become a designated giver and my contributions to the State of Washington Combined Fund have grown more diverse. I truly do give at work. If United Way is going to move away from social services as its focus, I see no reason not to drop it and use the State Fund or the Seattle Times and P-I Readers' Funds to channel my contributions to worthy causes.



Earmarked charity

Thanks for the thoughtful coverage of United Way's new approach ("Selling giving," 1/3). As I recall, the changes started when anti-abortionists demanded that none of their United Way contribution go to Planned Parenthood.

By the way, is Bill Gates' big new contribution to be used as United Way sees fit? Or has he earmarked it for his favorite charities? Do we know if it will be spent on food banks, senior services, and homeless shelters, or on a scholarship fund to send middle-class kids to some pretentious arts school?

Keep up the good reporting; the Weekly has consistently been doing this community a great service!



Thanks for a little

Thank you for your comprehensive feature on United Way of King County ("Selling giving," 1/27). The author did an excellent job of articulating complicated issues facing the organization and the workplace fundraising field. I was surprised, however, that the article didn't mention the number of other local federations that raise money for nonprofit organizations through company charitable giving campaigns.

For over 10 years, close to a dozen federations and funds have worked together as a coalition to expand the options given to employees in workplace campaigns. Among the issues and interests covered by these smaller federations are the environment, social justice, women's issues, international assistance, and health research. By coming together as the Coalition for Charitable Choice, we offer employers and employees another way in which they can widen their support to the community. While United Way's donor option program gives employees the opportunity to designate to a specific charity, it doesn't educate employees on the work of those agencies. In other words, someone has to already know about an organization in order to write them in. Federation members of the Coalition provide information to employees who are interested in learning about programs on a wide variety of issues. Our goal is to do the best job of matching the donors' interests with a community need.

I am encouraged by the generosity that's building in this community, but I'm also a little anxious about the declining level of support for workplace giving campaigns. While large gifts are extremely important, the donor who steadfastly gives $5, $10, or $20 a month is also making a significant contribution. We want to make sure all donors are valued and know that their community appreciates, encourages, and benefits from their philanthropy.



Accountable giving

Congratulations on the excellent article by Roger Downey on applying business smarts to philanthropy ("Selling giving," 1/27). As a major donor myself and also a fundraiser, I appreciate both ends of that spectrum.

People usually avoid being on fundraising committees with a fear almost akin to their aversion to public speaking. Yet fundraisers have a lot to give to the donors. They give access to organizations that the donor would never find on her own. Donors often want to support the arts or kids or the environment, but they cannot sort through all the agencies by themselves. Fundraisers also give donors publicity by listing them in programs and monuments. They help shelter money from taxes, too.

A big item that fundraisers give today's new donors is empowerment. By showing the budget, the goals, efficient management, and what their money will do, fundraisers give donors an easy way to be powerful, effective, and make a difference.

If philanthropy is going to become commonplace among the wealthy, accountability will have to become commonplace among the charities and programs.



Miss Information?

"Master of his domain" (1/27) is simply put "poor journalism" on your part. You are so far from understanding what top level domains are all about you should never have attempted to write this column with any kind of negative slant without better understanding. It would have been nice for you to take the time to learn more about the issues than to go throwing around miss information like this.

Your last bit about Oriya Pollak from NYC was a joke. Come on this person is not very bright here. Anyone who knows anything about good domain names would know that you can't really make a lot of money stealing peoples domains and reselling. The fact that he wants his money back has nothing to do with the .cc or other top level domain people doing any bad business.

I own many domain names and have received what Pollack refers to as "spam." It's far from it. The .cc people do not spam people. They do notify people who already own .com, .net, .org domains that the .cc domain of they're name is available if they are interested in ordering it. I passed on many of my domains because I don't need them.

When are companies like going to learn that you only need one domain name for your company. Once you go out and get them all your being annoying. I'm glad to see that Amazon doesn't own amazon.net or amazon.org. They simple don't need to.



Bloody hell

I'm a "Mr. Type-O Universal Donor" and I just read your column (Quick and Dirty, 1/27), but there's no way in hell you're getting my blood. See, I'm one of those minimum wage slaves with no health insurance. I have no access to any kind of surgeries and I don't drive (therefore wreck) cars (I do, however, breathe your exhaust). So naturally I don't give a fuck about some yuppie's liver transplant or some prom queen's ovarian cyst.

So when you've wrecked your new Lexus and you're being loaded into an ambulance with bleeding eye sockets, take a moment to remember I'll be smiling over you from my window bus seat with the great satisfaction of knowing I didn't do a thing to save your life.

Happy bleeding to death,



Don't forget Mr. Hooper

As owners of a small neighborhood market that specializes in fresh produce, we read your grocery feature (1/20) with interest. We were disappointed to find that you left out the many excellent small groceries in this city.

Ken's, Greenwood Market, City Greens, M&R Produce, the Sunset Hill Greenmarket (our own and perhaps the smallest), and many others deserve mention in such an otherwise comprehensive piece. We may be a small drop in the bucket of grocery sales, but our contributions to our neighborhoods and communities are immeasurable. By ignoring us, you left out an important part of Seattle's exciting grocery scene!




Groceries of the fittest

I divide my grocery shopping into three categories: "classic," "sport," and "survivalist," picking the store accordingly ("Grocery wars," 1/20). Safeway is great for classic shopping; time has proved that not only do they have the best price, but that the quality and freshness of their packaged dry staples and spices are often better than PCC's bulk equivalent and the potatoes don't look any different. PCC, on the other hand, is a wonderful sport venue; every so often I just love slumming through the aisles leading back to my salad days of miso, patchouli, and itchy wool socks. I won't say much about survival shopping, but the day you are covered with paint, have a little dog vomit on your pant leg, and want a pair of nylons, a bottle of wine, zucchini, and some motor oil RIGHT NOW, who cares about soft lighting, medium oak trim, and organic paper bags?



Turn it down!

If your reporters were subjected to a blaring broadcast of a Seahawks game when they visited the Green Lake Albertsons ("Grocery wars," 1/21), they should consider themselves lucky. The usual aural menu there features the most irritating and banal pop-rock hits from the '70s and '80s, played at a gratingly loud sound level. I shop at this store occasionally simply because it is less than a block from my home, but when I do, I make sure to have a list of the items I need beforehand. That way I can tear through the store and be through the checkout line while suffering the least offense to my senses. Given the origin of Muzac as a device to cajole shoppers into spending more, it is inexplicable why Albertsons has chosen to broadcast the human equivalent of those ultrasonic devices for ridding the home of roaches.



A cry for grated cheese

When PCC announced it was coming to Issaquah, I eagerly awaited the opportunity for my local food shopping opportunities to be expanded (see "Grocery wars," 1/20). Well, it has arrived, but the expansion has been trivial. The prices are as high as Larry's, but the selection is not remotely as good. (Me: "Could you tell me where I find grated cheese?" Salesclerk: "I'm sorry, sir, we don't carry grated cheese.") Even at high prices, take-away foods can often be appealing. But I could find little except chicken and soy dishes at PCC. In addition, I was surprised that a brand-new store could look so gloomy and dingy, as if the landlord failed to refresh the yellowed paint during the last 20 years. Oh, Whole Foods, when are you coming to the Eastside?



You don't bring me flowers

Ms. Robinson's evaluation of the dot-com grocers ("Screen savings?" 1/20) was a classic example of uneven reporting. However, before I comment on the heavy-handedness, laudits are due for driving home that the user interface for albertsons.com is far less friendly than that of homegrocer.com. I hope that Albertsons will take heed and fix the problems with their Web site usability soon. It's only fair to give them some time to refine its user-friendliness before writing them off; after all, HomeGrocer had been doing this Web site and delivery thing for more than a year before Albertsons jumped in. I have confidence Albertsons can and will improve.

I was happy to see HomeGrocer appear on the scene. However, I was almost more grateful for the appearance of Albertsons on the grocery delivery market, as I depend upon grocery delivery due to some mobility limitations. I have found next-day delivery available just ONCE from homegrocer.com since the week prior to Christmas! I was surprised to see Ms. Robinson portray next-day delivery as available from both. While HomeGrocer's queue is now OCCASIONALLY not filled up for next day, Albertsons is holding true thus far.

Ms. Robinson mentions the gratis first-timer bag of produce from HomeGrocer, but made no mention of the $15 first-timer credit from Albertsons. She claims the answer "remains unclear" as to who has better prices for the products, but as someone who has shopped from both grocery deliverers, I can tell you that clearly Albertsons has the price advantage.As a matter of fact, shortly after Albertsons interloped on HG's heretofore untouched territory of grocery delivery in the Seattle area, HG started showing "sale prices" on a very few items for the first time. Another good reason to utilize both grocers for delivery orders—just to assure competition will remain healthy!

Ms. Robinson also seems to have missed the boat in terms of mentioning the freebies. There is not a single delivery I have EVER gotten from HG or Albertsons that has not included a freebie surprise. At least once from each merchant, the free surprise has been a lovely bunch of flowers, delivered fresh to my door by a friendly man with a nice smile. This is something I've had significant trouble getting from any of the men in my life.



Power buyers

I found Rick Anderson's article "The new power buyers" (1/20) interesting. Two items from it stick with me.

The first is Bill Gates' epiphany that Microsoft needs political clout. He's late to the party, but how much of Microsoft's antitrust woes could have been eliminated had Microsoft been willing to at least employ as many lobbyists as Netscape? However, what is most upsetting is what goes unstated: who the real big donors are—they are unnamed. They are not businesspeople or corporations. In the 1998, I believe the biggest organizational donors were labor unions. Indeed, one union, the WEA, got its hand slapped around the same time Tom Stewart was being fined. Of course, the GOP benefactor got fined about 10 times the amount the union did, the Attorney General is a Democrat, and that penalty disparity was just a coincidence. Hopefully, the next time you run a story on the money of politics, you'll provide the rest of the story.



Barons and their toys

I enjoyed Ms. Gunn's article on Gates' new tack ("Rich man walking," 1/20). Out here in the hinterlands, Bill is not so much viewed as the cyclonic force of nerd-dom; instead, the view of Bill is more of the poor little very fucking rich kid. All that money, all those toys, and yet he is just as hunted by the Feds as some millennium smooth-talker who helped nice old ladies get to the ATM before midnight New Year's Eve last.

Here in Pittsburgh, Pa., the local history includes the complete life stories of many of the Industrial Revolution's most greedy Barons—Carnegie, Frick, Melon, Heinz, Westinghouse, just to name a few. All came to one kind or another of a bad end. Disillusioned, estranged, made marginal, their only positive worth ended up being their foundations and cultural contributions, all made on the backs of their abused workers and colleagues. It will be the same for Gates, Allen, Balmer, et al. The toys change, but the boys don't.



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