Don’t let gossip guide your charitable giving

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By Kim Harsch, Resource Development Coordinator

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time for family gatherings, warm fires, showering those we love with gifts, for cold noses and hot chocolate, and …spreading false rumors about charitable organizations? Yes, it happens each year around the holidays: negative falsehoods that spread like a California wildfire throughout social media. These rumors are designed to cover well-known nonprofits in a cloud of doubt and suspicion. Mostly, however, copied negative memes draw the focus away from those in need and reflect much more poorly on the person posting them then they do on the organization.

Why? If you post something that is not true, you admit to the general masses that you do not take the time to verify the truth and therefore WANT TO BE A NEGATIVE GOSSIPER. Yes, I said it. You want to gossip. Sorry, I know that isn’t a very Christmassy thing to say but even your elf on the shelf wouldn’t hit “post” without verifying the accuracy of such damaging information.

Bad holiday humor aside, these lies are damaging. Let me give you an example. You may have noticed on social media, the so-called “Think Before You Donate” viral rumor has been circulating. I know it’s popped up on my Facebook feed and has even been shared by a few of my friends. Here is an image of the actual meme:

think before

This gets shared and shared every year and every year I tell my friends again that this information is false and I give them links to properly research the information. To set the record straight on this particular rumor about Goodwill, an organization I hold so dear, no person named Mark Curran has ever been a CEO at Goodwill Industries and no one in the organization earns the $2.3 million in compensation mentioned in the rumor! Also, Goodwill is not owned by any individual, but in fact is a network of 161 community-based, autonomous nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations. The one that I work for, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, is headquartered in Muskegon with a service territory encompassing, all or portions of, 12 surrounding counties.

All of this factual information is easily available on Goodwill’s website at http://www.goodwillwm.org. It is also verifiable through www.guidestar.org, a third party nonprofit dedicated to researching and rating charitable organizations according to their financial transparency and mission delivery. On Guidestar, you can look at each nonprofit’s actual 990 tax forms to see their revenue sources and how they are spending it. It’s an invaluable resource if you wish to make charitable donations. And it is easily accessible by anyone on the internet.

As a strong believer in Goodwill’s mission as well as an employee of Goodwill, it is incredibly frustrating and disheartening to have to combat this bogus information year after year. Time and money we spend trying to educate misinformed people only detracts from our mission.

I know most of you are aware of the positive impact our organization has on the West Michigan community. Through the revenue generated by your generous donations of household items and monetary contributions, we offer vital employment placement, job training, and support services to members of our community, including people with disabilities, ex-offenders, displaced workers, and more.

My friends who have unknowingly circulated these lies believe in helping our community and they are not thinking about the nearly 5,000 people in West Michigan our Goodwill helps each year. But those are the people affected if donations drop – not some fictitious person named Mark Curran. Remember, as a leader in our community, your voice matters. If you see the “Think Before You Donate” rumor circulating in your social networks, I hope you’ll join us in stopping negative gossip and correcting the information head on. And I hope that you will continue to help us change lives through the power of work by not letting fake news dissuade you from giving! http://bit.ly/2AGyvEe

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