Letter to the editor – Politics, altruism differ

To the editor:

In response to the guest opinion column, “Nonprofits can learn from Dean,” [Philanthropy Journal, 8/18/03]:

Let us not confuse the motives of political activism with those of altruism.

The appeal of Voteforme.com and Throwthebumsout.com lies in the will to obtain political power, to win control of disbursements from the common coffer.

An investment therein influences political discourse and may buy access to the politically powerful, but does not feed the hungry nor clothe the naked.

A political candidate may promise to feed and clothe, but we know full well that which paves the road to politicians’ hell.

Investment in a nonprofit is not about using our resources to obtain power over the common coffer. It is about giving of our personal resources directly to improve the lot of others.

Of course politics is important, activism therein is to be applauded and we may learn something from the marketing strategies of candidates that will help us in our own marketing efforts.

Yes, we may talk about similarities between political and nonprofit fundraising until we are besotted by dreams of Other People’s Money gushing out of our computers, but we are dealing with two very different motivations to give.

We will not bridge the gulf between political activism and altruism. That gulf is as deep as it is wide.

Even the Congress and the IRS understand this. So must we.

— James Hopkins, director of development, The English-Speaking Union of the United States, New York City.

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