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Statement from the Executive Director regarding ACS

13 Oct

As you may have heard, a planned project by Foundation Beyond Belief to raise up to a half million dollars through the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program was recently tabled when ACS declined to allow us to create a national Relay team as other non-profits have done.

The initiative was the idea of humanist philanthropist Todd Stiefel, a steadfast supporter of FBB, whose family has been devastated by the disease for generations. Todd offered to head up the effort; he and his father Charles offered an astonishing $250,000 in matching grants; and we dedicated one of our intern positions to assist in organizing local teams around the U.S. It was an exciting opportunity to do what we have always done: rally the compassion and generosity of the nontheistic community for the greater good. Our approach was met with initial enthusiasm and excitement from ACS — then, quite suddenly, a brick wall. (Read more here and here.)

It’s common practice for non-profits to decline support when they feel an association would result in a greater loss of support from other donors. Several such incidents have been in the news over the years. Unfortunately, such policies can have the effect of reinforcing stereotypes by keeping a perceived pariah on the cultural margins. Regardless of any short-term benefits to an organization’s cash flow, the maintenance of pariahs simply isn’t good for the culture.

This is not the first time we have been declined by an organization we had hoped to support—it is the fourth, in fact—nor is it likely to be the last. But in each previous case, we have chosen not to talk publicly about it, preferring to focus on the more than 70 charitable organizations who have been happy and grateful to accept our partnership in alleviating suffering and injustice around the world. This time, however, the frustration became part of a public conversation.

We are so grateful to Todd for his efforts and sorry for this disappointing outcome. Though both Todd and FBB are focused on other projects now, we have every intention of redirecting the positive energy of our community to another organization in the future. Thanks to all for your expressions of support and encouragement.

Dale McGowan
Executive Director, Foundation Beyond Belief

More on the story can be found at Greta Christina’s blog and AlterNet

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