opinion   |   oped

EDITORIAL: Support charities other than The Salvation Army

It’s about that time of year when we can’t make our weekly grocery shopping trips without seeing one of those red Salvation Army buckets awaiting us at the door. Volunteers dressed to some degree as Santa and ringing a single jingle bell implore us to donate to the Salvation Army, be it change, cash or check. 

Despite how prevalent it is, we should not be donating to this charity at all. With controversy surrounding the Salvation Army, the editorial board feels that holiday charitable donations should be given elsewhere. 

The Salvation Army, a Christian organization, does a wide range of things from organizing soup kitchens and providing holiday meals to international projects to combat poverty. At face value, this seems great. But like many things, the face value may not be all you’re getting. 

In recent years, The Salvation Army has received criticism over its allegedly anti-LGBT views and actions. 

Prior to 2013, the Salvation Army listed two links under its resource collection for sex addiction which were “ex-gay” or reparative therapy groups. Reparative or conversion therapy, a therapy process designed to turn gay people straight, is a direct contradiction to their statement about non-discrimination. Conversion therapy in the past has included inducing vomiting while making the patient watch homoerotic films, electroshock therapy, psychological abuse and more.

While the Salvation Army has recently done a lot to save face amidst these allegations, including curating a fairly new LGBT outreach program, it’s worrisome that this organization ever endorsed those groups. After backlash, the links to these groups were taken down, but the message stands loud and clear. 

It is good to see a turn in attitudes, there are several other charitable organizations that don’t have a history of homophobic policies.

Outside of the moral issue, it’s important to approach any holiday monetary donations with an effective altruistic approach. Essentially, this means using resources such as GiveWell.org to find out which organizations use money the most effectively to help people in need. 

Donating money to groups who do very little with it kind of negates the whole premise. 

Donating to a charity shows support for this group and encourages what it is doing. A donation is an endorsement, no matter how charitable. When people donate to organizations that parade as charity, but may not actually have solid values, it raises eyebrows. 

To address another issue around holiday giving, that money is not the only thing one can give. There are local charities and shelters constantly looking for volunteers to help with various outreach programs, and if people find themselves in a tight spot financially but still want to help out, volunteering may just be the route to take. 

It’s hard to always understand where money actually goes after a donation, and sometimes charities do very little to clear that confusion. By donating time rather than money, one can experience exactly where their donation is going — one can see who they are helping, what the environment is truly like and how the charity operates outside its web page. 

It is imperative to do research before donating to any charity. It’s simply a safeguard to make sure that this charity is actually charity — not furthering discrimination or hateful stipulations. And if nothing else, keep in mind that donating things other than money, such as time, may be a better strategy.

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