EDITORIAL: ‘Make It Count’ charity lacks openness

Vague informational campaign raises questions about its intentions

New Brunswick has launched a program to aid the homeless called “Make It Count,” according to WCTC radio station.

“This direct transaction-based donation service utilizes specially-designated parking-style meters to accept monetary donations in the form of coins, credit cards and debit cards. All proceeds will benefit various social service agencies serving the homeless and those in need,” according to WCTC. 

Details about the program are scarce and difficult to find online. The wording used in this piece — “all proceeds will benefit various social service agencies” — is concerning for a multitude of reasons.

A distinction must be made: Money that benefits a social service agency serving the homeless is not the same thing as money that directly benefits the homeless. Certain breast cancer awareness groups have been criticized or shut down due to its failure to distribute its “charitable” profits in an ethical manner, according to USA Today.

“A high concern advisory was issued for the defunct charities Breast Cancer Society and the Cancer Fund of America. The Federal Trade Commission ordered the organizations to be dissolved after alleging they were scam charities and bilked donors,” according to the article.

“Other organizations rate lower because they scored lower on financial support and are spending more on fundraising than devoting funds to the issues,“ said Charity Navigator CEO Michael Thatcher. “The money is going to spending money to make money.”

This is not to immediately accuse the vague, nameless organizations that these proceeds are going to of embezzlement nor anything of the like, but to emphasize that transparency is of the utmost importance when asking for people’s charity — and as of yet, we have not seen this transparency with this program. 

There is also a sort of hypocrisy that this charitable gesture alludes to, solely because the city of New Brunswick itself is the body administering these donations. The government, if no other body, has the power to mitigate the impacts and amount of homeless people, and yet they come to us for petty cash in order to do so? Why not just institute programs that help them without begging for even more — on top of taxes, obviously — of our money? 

New Brunswick also has a poor track record helping the homeless when it comes to tangible aid instead of feel-good gestures of insignificant, facetious donation programs. 

For instance, the city barred a homeless support group from propping up booths at the New Brunswick train station, according to The Daily Targum.

“(Supporting Homeless Innovatively Loving Others) has been handing out food, toiletries and sharing ways to contact services to many of New Brunswick’s homeless people for five years,” said SHILO’s executive director and CEO Walter Herres. 

“Until this past Sunday, the NJ Transit police had allowed the event to go without a permit. But this time, they were told they needed a permit, forcing them to go across the street where there is no awning for protection from possible bad weather,” according to the article. 

The new “Make It Count” campaign also neglects to attack the source of homelessness, such as institutional problems including gentrification and structural unemployment, among numerous other factors.

Rather than soliciting cash from passersby citizens, New Brunswick must grant money directly to organizations that aim to help the homeless — that is, organizations that genuinely do help its cause, rather than embezzle money into overhead and other inflating costs.

Organizations that fit such criteria include Elijah’s Promise, or plenty of other churches and other religious organizations that donate money and food to the less fortunate.

Overall, everybody — especially college students who may find themselves tight on cash — should be wary of any group soliciting money, no matter how noble the cause might seem. There is such a thing as predatory charity, so donors or potential donors have to exercise its due diligence prior to pledging money to a cause. 

Rather than donate to the “Make It Count” campaign, students and other inhabitants of the New Brunswick area should pledge their money, time or labor to charitable groups directly. Once more information about the “Make It Count” campaign comes to light, and given that such information proves the charitable gesture to be one that genuinely benefits its targeted communities, people can rest assured when submitting a donation to one of those parking meters.

For the time being, if you do choose to donate to "Make It Count," you cannot be sure where your money is going.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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