Give to Charity over Political Campaigns

Volunteers serve people during a free lunch service for the Emergency Assistance Program at Chicago Catholic Charities in Chicago, Nov. 1, 2013. (Jim Young / Reuters)

It does more good for those in need and has the added benefit of helping nonprofits maintain their independence from government.

Wwho is the best way for Americans to help their fellow citizens in need this holiday season: effecting systemic political change or making direct donations to charity?

In a recent Twitter exchange, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban warned his followers that the former was not good enough:

Singer John Legend then stepped in to push Cuban’s argument back:

It is hardly surprising that the Liberals prefer direct political engagement over private charitable giving to solve social problems. Yet in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and devastated the US economy, the government doesn’t appear to be doing a very good job of helping those affected. It is not for lack of spending. Billions of dollars have been sent from Washington, but so randomly that many families are still worried about where their next meal will come from. Mr. Cuban is right: it is better to help the needy directly by donating to a food bank than indirectly by electing senators who will eventually vote for government aid.

Yet what most observers probably don’t realize is that this debate is in some sense moot: the government is just funneling its largesse to private charities anyway, and politicizing the world without it. profit to an unprecedented degree in the process.

Donate to the United States, an annual report produced by the Giving Institute that tracks charitable spending, found that a third of the $ 2 trillion income reported by nonprofits in 2016 came government grants and contracts, while an additional 49 percent came from fees and services. This means that less than 20% of all funds raised by nonprofits come from private donations from individuals, foundations, businesses and bequests.

The biggest nonprofit beneficiaries of government largesse are usually hospitals and universities. In 2019, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute received nearly $ 10 million in federal money and National Jewish Health received $ 13 million; in 2017, Harvard has received over $ 573 million in research and development funding and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor received over $ 829 million, according to the National Science Foundation. Beyond the health and higher education sectors, even some religious nonprofit organizations have raised public funds. World Relief, an evangelical humanitarian organization, received federal revenues of $ 320 million in 2018. In 2014, 63% of the $ 4.5 billion in revenues for Catholic charities came from government sources.

It is difficult to remain sympathetic while opposing the allocation of public funds to education, medical research and humanitarian aid. But the outsized role the government has come to play in funding American nonprofits has in many cases changed the way they operate. With colleges, of course, we know that government-funded financial aid has resulted in higher tuition fees and increased debt for students and their families. There is no doubt that hospitals and research institutes need more money to study and treat serious illnesses. But the administrators who run these institutions are also sensitive to the wishes, and sometimes the whims, of federal officials. Perhaps this will mean that they are more likely to study cures for viruses and deadly cancers; but it could also mean that they are not inclined to research the long-term effects of currently popular diagnoses such as gender dysphoria. Faith groups that provide humanitarian aid may decide to pursue some strategies over others – perhaps prioritizing soup kitchens over work programs – in order to satisfy their government’s benefactors. Money with conditions inevitably threatens the independence of those who receive it.

Meanwhile, organizations with explicitly political missions also receive significant sums: the National Urban League and Planned Parenthood received more than $ 13 million and $ 616 million respectively in 2019. These political groups often lobby for an increase. government spending and magically find the beneficiaries. Without having to respond much to private donors, they can simply pursue a unique strategy in line with what Washington wants.

Most nonprofits are of course well intentioned and do a good job, but that doesn’t lessen the problems posed by their growing entanglement with government. If we are to send more resources to people in immediate need, we must take Mark Cuban’s advice. Giving directly to charity is a faster, easier, and more efficient way to do good than to donate to a candidate for the Senate in Georgia – and it has the added benefit of helping US nonprofits. to maintain their independence from the long arm of government.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.