The Extraordinary Give will hold its annual single day of online giving for the 10th time Friday. As Tracy Cutler, executive vice president of the Lancaster County Community Foundation, wrote in an op-ed published in the Sunday LNP, “In nine single days over the course of nine years, the ExtraGive has engaged more than 50,000 people in giving, supported more than 500 nonprofits, and raised more than $66 million to support families and children, health and basic needs, education, arts, culture, the environment and more. Lancaster County Community Foundation is proud to be the creator, host and largest investor in the ExtraGive and has never taken a penny from the event.” The Extraordinary Give enables donors to contribute money to any of the more than 500 participating nonprofits from midnight through 11:59 p.m. Friday at extragive.org.
The Extraordinary Give has done an incredible amount of good in Lancaster County. It has transformed the way philanthropy is practiced here. It has created a joyful community celebration focused on generosity.
And we urge Lancaster County residents to take part in the giving.
But not everyone is happy with the way the Lancaster County Community Foundation operates the ExtraGive. And we believe that critics such as Darci Ellenberger have a point when they say that some of the organizations that benefit from the event are at odds with the foundation’s stated value of opposing discrimination, particularly as it relates to people in the LGBTQ community.
In an Oct. 31 Sunday LNP op-ed, Lancaster County Community Foundation President and CEO Sam Bressi wrote that the foundation “does not endorse the programs or practices of organizations simply because they have ‘qualified to participate’ in ExtraGive.”
In an op-ed published in Wednesday’s LNP, Ellenberger countered: “If the Lancaster County Community Foundation is in charge of not only distributing a monetary prize but also determining the qualifications to compete for it in the first place, what is that if not an endorsement?”
She noted that Bressi had written that the foundation’s values include integrity, relationships, equity, innovation and courage. And she asked him, in her column: “How can you value equity while forcing community benefit organizations that support our LGBTQ community to share stretch pool dollars with the organizations causing harm to their community in the first place?”
We understand that this is a thorny situation for the Community Foundation. We appreciate that it has sought to give ExtraGive donors the means of vetting the participating nonprofits by encouraging those organizations to post links to their nondiscrimination policies on their ExtraGive profile pages.
And we strongly encourage people to vet the organizations to which they want to donate, checking not just whether they have included nondiscrimination policies on the ExtraGive site, but to visit their organizational websites and read their mission statements and the descriptions of their work.
The sad reality is that some of the nonprofits participating in the Extraordinary Give oppose same-sex marriage and hew to narrow, exclusionary definitions of gender identity. And one organization explicitly views same-sex relationships as sinful and considers transgender individuals and same-sex couples to be living a “distortion of God’s good design.”
Whether subtle or blatant, whether coming from a religious organization or a secular one, these discriminatory views cause real harm to individuals and families, and we find these positions abhorrent.
This being America, people are free to hold their own beliefs. But we also are free to choose whether to subsidize those beliefs.
Most of the nonprofits raising money through the Extraordinary Give are doing admirable and essential work: feeding the hungry; serving children and adults with disabilities; supporting children and families in need; providing health care; advocating for individuals with serious health conditions; housing those without shelter; operating our libraries; aiding domestic violence survivors; rescuing animals and training service dogs; supporting the arts, STEM programs, youth activities and schools; and caring for those have suffered natural disasters. And two serve the LGBTQ community.
So please don’t turn away from the Extraordinary Give. But please join us in what needs to be a countywide discussion about how to effectively address the bigotry that LGBTQ individuals still face. And please encourage the Community Foundation to engage more fully with its critics in the LGBTQ community, who are not seeking special status, but want only what everyone wants: to be able to live, work and raise their families safely.
To help spur a long-overdue conversation about diversity in the community and to encourage more nonprofits to implement equitable practices, The Steinman Foundation has created Pursuit of Equity prizes for this year’s Extraordinary Give.
As LNP reported in its Wednesday edition, the foundation’s prizes were designed as incentives for nonprofits to prove they not only welcome but celebrate people of all races, ethnicities, ages, religious beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities.
“The Steinman Foundation, a longtime supporter of the annual day of charitable giving, is awarding $5,000 Pursuit of Equity prizes to 10 randomly chosen local nonprofits that already have in place strong anti-discrimination policies or are pursuing equitable practices in their organizations,” LNP reported.
“The goal is to support and come alongside organizations that want to pursue equitable practices and ensure we have a community where everybody is celebrated — not just included but celebrated,” said Olivia Walters, The Steinman Foundation’s outreach coordinator. (The Steinman Foundation is a local, independent family foundation that was funded by the companies that make up Steinman Communications; those companies include LNP Media Group.)
These prizes allow The Steinman Foundation to continue supporting the good work of many local nonprofits while ensuring its contributions are directed only to those that “celebrate and welcome all people,” Walters said.
Of the more than 500 nonprofits taking part in the Extraordinary Give this year, only about 100 applied for Pursuit of Equity prizes by the Nov. 12 deadline. To be eligible for the prizes, those organizations had to acknowledge that “to celebrate and welcome a person with appreciation is to create a space free from harassment and shame where they feel safe and comfortable expressing their whole and authentic self.”
They also had to confirm that they have in place, or will be implementing, policies banning discrimination against employees and applicants on the basis of sex or gender; gender identity; gender expression; race; color; national origin; religion; creed; age; disability; citizenship; marital or domestic partnership status; sexual orientation; genetic predisposition; military or veteran status; or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law, rule or regulation.
The winners of the Pursuit of Equity prizes will be announced Friday.
We are proud to be even tangentially associated with The Steinman Foundation’s advocacy for equity.
We are grateful to the Lancaster County Community Foundation for creating the Extraordinary Give. And we ask you to consider giving Friday to organizations that serve Lancaster County residents without perpetuating views that harm any of us.