And speaking of Joan Kroc . . .

Friday’s New York Times piece about the impact her huge gift, its use restricted to the construction of recreation centers, is having on the Salvation Army raises a number of questions:

  • Where do charities locate?  Notice towns competing for the new centers!  Maybe those are towns that otherwise wouldn’t tolerate Salvation Army facilities but have citizens who need the Army’s services–in which case, it’s a very clever maneuver for combatting Not In My Back Yard-ness.  But it sounds as though the recipient locations are prosperous–in which case, what’s the Salvation Army doing in them, and for whom?
  • What’s the Salvation Army doing in general?  Kroc’s gift may have created "mission creep"–what happens to organizations which turn into what their donors think they are rather than what they are, or have been.  Other broad-spectrum social service agencies (notably the YMCA) have included athletics in their programs from the get-go, but the jungle gym sits strangely on the Army–which is, after all, a church.
  • What’s the proper place of luxury in charity?  Is the Henry Moore sculpture an extravagance, or a way for society to say to poor people, "You deserve the best"?
  • Why did Kroc make her gift a challenge grant, which absolutely guarantees that the Army will spend fundraising time on the centers at the expense of fundraising for its traditional activities?  Is this innocent generosity gone awry, or does it have some deeper purpose I’m not getting?


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