07 August 2010

Uncharitable Charities

The August 5, 2010 Wall St. Journal ran a front-page story about how charities are defending their names, logos, even colors against other charities that they deem to infringe on their branding or trademark. Examples, according to the WSJ:

The Susan G. Komen For the Cure has taken legal action against Kites for a Cure, Juggling for a Cure, Kayak for a Cure, and “dozens of others.” Not only does the Komen organization believe they own the “Cure,” they also believe their signature color pink should not be used by another organization.

Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG association has taken legal issue with HEADstrong – with it’s name, logo design, and color. And not just the color yellow of Livestrong – they objected to the gold color of Headstrong’s logo, deeming it “appears to be very close to the color yellow.”

The Wounded Warrior Project (Florida) objected to the domain name of Wounded Warriors Inc. (Nebraska), as it claimed people wanting to contribute to WWP mistakenly went to the WWI site. [Trying to access the website in question, woundedwarriors.org, currently brings up a “network error” message.]

The Sunshine Kids Foundation in Texas sent legal notice to Sunshine Kids Club of California, claiming that one SKF donor mistakenly wrote checks to SKCC. The California group even offered the Texas organization to “reference the Sunshine Kids Foundation on its website to dispel confusion.” The SKF said they would not allow their name to be used even for that purpose of clarification.

So I guess this is just another example of the lawyers having taken over America. Have the big charities themselves become non-profit versions of corporate America? Is it really about money, money, money, rather than fostering a culture that cares about other people? In the article, trademark attorney Andrew Price (apparently not associated with any of the organizations mentioned) is quoted as saying: “The days are probably over when nonprofits just said, ‘We’ll just get along with anybody who’s a nonprofit because we’re all trying to do good here.’”

For me, this only reinforces my aversion to “big” charities – although I imagine in some cases they do excellent work. We remain committed to Kiva, with its direct funding to needy individuals and its extremely low overhead.

Sorry Lance, Susan, and the rest of you. You’ll need to become a lot more charitable to attract my contributions.