Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Charity Wednesdays - Don't Judge a Charity By It's Name

Especially if it's name has something to do with an embroiled sports star who may, or may not, have used performance-enhancing drugs.

If you're a fan of cycling, then you have no doubt heard about the ongoing saga of Lance Armstrong and the debates about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs to help him win seven Tour de France titles. Also if you're a fan of cycling, or if you just happen to own a bike, or know anyone who has ever had cancer, or simply have a thing for yellow wrist bands, then you have undoubtedly heard about the charity Lance Armstrong founded, the Livestrong Foundation.

As noted by Philanthropy Today, the Livestrong Foundation is trying to distance itself from the chaos surrounding the career of its founder.  That's a good thing.  Nobody should ever donate, or not donate, to a charity because of how they feel about one person associated with it.  As Philanthropy Today's Rich Polt more eloquently puts it:
Nobody should ever have given to the Livestrong foundation based on Lance Armstrong’s exploits on the bike. Instead, corporations, foundations, and individuals should always base decisions on whether to give on the questions asked of all nonprofits: Are its programs effective, is it achieving its mission, and is it responsibly stewarding financial resources?

While the allegations against Armstrong are serious, they are a reminder that there isn't a person out there that hasn't made a misstep.  You don't have to be star athlete to royally screw up.  But one bout of alleged wrongdoing does not invalidate the good that anyone does.  Charities should not go down in the same flames that consume the reputations of the people associated with them.

The Livestrong Foundation may be a fine organization.  Or it may not be (for the record, the BBB has no report on the organization).  But the public's faith in the charity should have nothing to to with how a few bike races were won.

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