String theory

Todd Cohen

The culture wars are hurting charity.

Charities need donors but can trip over strings attached to their gifts.

Donor flaps at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at WUNC-FM both stem from fear they could be hurt if they accept support from donors tied to controversial causes.

UNC students and faculty oppose plans for the conservative Pope Foundation to fund a Western Studies minor because it also backs a libertarian think-tank that has been a sharp critic of the school.

And “reproductive health and rights” advocate Ipas has withdrawn its underwriting of WUNC after the station asked it to drop the word “rights” from its on-air sponsorship tagline.

UNC and WUNC both have failed to provide clear and even-handed policies for dealing with donors.

And while both are public institutions created to foster the free marketplace of ideas, they are falling prey to voices of intolerance, raised at UNC by campus liberals, and anticipated by WUNC from conservative donors and regulators.

Both institutions must find ways to engage donors and justify their trust while remaining fair and fearless champions of their missions.

That is the tough but critical challenge facing all charities.

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