United Way: Damage Control for a Nonprofit's Image

The United Way of America, the preeminent charitable organization in the United States, celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 1987. It had evolved from local community chests and its strategy for fund-raising had proven highly effective: funding local charities through payroll deductions. The good it did seemed unassailable.

Abruptly in 1992, the image that United Way had created was jolted by revelations from investigative reporters of free spending and other questionable deeds of its greatest builder and president, William Aramony. A major point of public concern was Aramony's salary and uncontrolled perks in a lifestyle that seemed inappropriate for a charitable organization that depended mostly on contributions from working people. He was later sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy.

We are left to question the callousness and lack of concern with the ethical impact on the public image of such a major charitable and nonprofit entity. After all, unlike business firms that offer products or services to potential customers, charitable organizations depend on contributions that people give freely out of a desire to help society, with no tangible personal benefits. An image of high integrity and honest dealings without any semblance of corruption or privilege would seem essential for such organizations.


Organizing the United Way ...

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