Posts tagged ‘Let Them Eat Cake’

March 15, 2013

Do You Know How to Navigate in the Gray Area?

I recently published a post about how City of Hope plans to host a special fundraising event at odds with the organization’s mission. Most readers who responded to a poll at the end of the post felt the event is inappropriate with many even finding the event unethical.

The unscientific poll reveals that 49 percent of respondents feel that the “Let Them Eat Cake” event is “Inappropriate but Not Unethical,” 27 percent say the event is “Unethical & Inappropriate,” 13 percent say the event is a “Great Idea All Around,” and 10 percent believe the event is “Appropriate, Whether on Mission or Not.”

I’m comforted to know that over three-quarters of the respondents feel the same way as I do about the City of Hope event. However, some of the comments I’ve received on this blog site, on LinkedIn, and via email concern me a bit.

Perhaps the comments are a result of how I worded the post or phrased the poll responses. Some people seem to be under the impression that one’s actions are either purely ethical or purely unethical. In certain cases, those folks would be correct. Some actions are clearly ethical or not. Stealing money from Girl Scouts selling cookies (this really happened) is clearly unethical.

However, not all situations are black and white, ethical or unethical.

While the legality or illegality of an action is certainly a guideline, such as the theft incident I just described, something can be unethical without being illegal. SScales of Justice by mikecogh via Flickrome situations in which we find ourselves put us into a gray area. The most challenging ethical dilemmas often involve situations that are not black and white. If they didn’t, they really wouldn’t be dilemmas, would they?

When considering the possible, multiple responses to a situation, we will often find some alternatives are more ethical while some are less ethical. In the case of City of Hope, the organization could choose to continue to host its “Let Them Eat Cake” event without any changes although many readers found it at odds with the nonprofit’s mission and, therefore, unethical. Alternatively, the organization could choose not do any event.

However, the organization has other options. For example, City of Hope can run its cake event but offer healthy alternatives and educational material as well. Or, the organization could host a different event like the Healthy Chef Competition in Vancouver, Canada that Rory Green, a development professional and blogger, told me about.

Again, some alternative courses of action are more ethical or less ethical than others. The objective should be to always choose the best option, make the best decision.

The most challenging ethical dilemmas of all, however, do not have any good, ethical solution. They’re no-win situations. Think of the novel/movie Sophie’s Choice or the “Kobayashi Maru” test from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Even in these no-win situations, we must cope as best as we can to be the best we can.

As those who work in the nonprofit sector, we must understand that our greatest asset is the trust of the public. The more trust people have in charities, the more likely they are to donate. And, with greater trust comes larger contributions.

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March 8, 2013

Do Not Let Them Eat Cake!

April 15 is an important date on the calendar. In the United States, it’s the deadline for people to file their federal tax return. It’s also when one charity will hold its eighth annual “Let Them Eat Cake” fundraising event.

The charity promotes the event as “Philadelphia’s Wedding Cake Design competition for professionals, students and those who love to bake to create.” Originally conceived by the charity to attract brides-to-be, the occasion now attracts over 1,000 foodies who pay a minimum of $40 each to taste the creations.

This sounds like a great idea for a fundraising event, right?

Wrong!

Cake by yenna via FlickrIn this case, the idea of “Let Them Eat Cake” has a major problem: In runs counter to the host organization’s own mission!

The event benefits City of Hope, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center that conducts independent biomedical research, treatment and education in the fight to conquer cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.

As is well-known, consuming sugar can be a life-threatening issue for those suffering from diabetes. Over consumption of sugar can help lead to Type II-Diabetes. Compelling research demonstrates that over consumption of sugar contributes to the growth of cancer. This is why organizations like the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education advocate a low-sugar, low-fat diet.

My wife is an Ovarian Cancer survivor. So, it stunned me when I saw an anti-cancer charity promoting the eating of processed sugar and fat. Indeed, City of Hope has placed the consumption of fat and sugar at the very heart of its upcoming fundraising event without any disclaimers or caveats.

I had to understand the thought process behind the event. I had to know if I was missing something. Therefore, I called and spoke with Christopher Fanelli, Event Coordinator at the Philadelphia Development Office of City of Hope and the event’s organizer.

I asked Fanelli to explain how his anti-cancer, anti-diabetes charity reconciled its event theme with its organizational mission. He indicated that there was no issue to reconcile. He stated, “Everything in moderation.” He said that the event successfully raises money and builds awareness for City of Hope “in a fun way.”

When pressed on the idea that the event stands in opposition to the organization’s mission, Fanelli said, “I don’t believe it does it at all. It points people to what our mission is.”

Ok, the event “points people” to the organization’s mission. I probed that point.

“Will the event feature any healthier dessert choices?,” I asked.

“No,” responded Fanelli.

“Will any healthy-eating leaflets or information be available at the event?”

 “No.”

“Will any information be available at the event that explains the dangers associated with eating too much sugar or fat?”

“No.”

Fanelli then went on to explain once again how this fun event raises money and awareness for City of Hope.

I then asked, “So, are you really suggesting that the ends justify the means?”

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