Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dialogue with the Red Cross

After hearing that the Red Cross refused a donation from the Dixie Chicks I wrote them a note voicing my opinion about that, and declaring that I would not donate to them in the future. They responded to me with a standard statement, and I responded to their response (conversation below).

I didn't expect to hear from them again, but this morning I found this little gem in my In-Box:

Pamela -- Decisions like yours should be based on facts, and not your assumptions based upon your residence in Hollywood. There was no offer of an unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross. Should the Dixie Chicks ever decide to join most of our donors and make an unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we would gladly accept it and put it to work towards our lifesaving mission.
Sincerely,
American Red Cross Public Inquiry


This response, possibly written by an intern or someone who makes broad leaps in logic that indicates similar reasoning to that which a) refused a $1,000,000 donation, and b) accused me of ignorning facts even as they make an assumption that I lived in Hollywood (!?!).

It's always fascinating to see what button can be pushed to drive someone operating behind a curtain to lose his/her cool. In this case, as soon as this "representative" presumed my opinion would not be swayed, he/she lashed out.

Here's the preceding correspondence:

Contact Message:
-----Original Message-----

Subject: Future Donations

I have just learned that the American Red Cross refused a $1,000,000 donation from the Dixie Chicks for voicing an opinion about the President and his war policy. This inexplicable gesture on the part of the Red Cross absolutely floors me, and indicates to me that there is a clear partisan agenda that powers the charity of the American Red Cross.

Bearing in mind that the Red Cross apparently picks and chooses who is allowed to donate to them, and bearing in mind that the generosity of three intelligent, tax-paying, and law-abiding women would be denied charity based on their political beliefs-beliefs supported and encouraged by the very foundational principles of this country--I will never donate another cent to the American Red Cross. Not only have I, and my family, donated money to the Red Cross in the past, but my brother has donated his time and talent on various occasions.

By the way, I am aware of the so-called "conditions" that the Red Cross claim the band requested, and I am aware that you have instituted "sweeping changes" to the way you "allow" donations to be filtered. It all reeks of politics and partisanship, which is not only entirely counter to charitable work, but suggests a pernicious systemic dogma on the part of the Red Cross.

I trust this decision on the part of the Red Cross, made at a juncture when the popularity rating of the current administration was high, will have far-reaching implications as to whether people from the U.S. and abroad donate to the Red Cross, or whether they will select another organization which does not incorporate politicking when deciding whether or not to accept a donation.
Disgusted,
Pamela _____


They responded with:

Dear Pamela:

Thank you for contacting the American Red Cross to share your concerns. Please read the STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS CONCERNING THE DIXIE CHICKS' MOTION PICTURE below: Shut Up and Sing', a documentary about the Dixie Chicks currently in limited release in theaters, chronicles the controversy and aftermath instigated by the comment made by lead singer, Natalie Maines, about being "ashamed" that President Bush was from Texas. During the film, there is a brief assertion that the Red Cross did not take a "million dollar donation" from the group with an observation that the President of the United States is our Honorary Chairman.

Here is the whole story: In 2003, following the controversy that erupted on a London stage, The Dixie Chicks' management approached the American Red Cross, asking for a promotional partnership for their forthcoming summer concert tour. There was no offer of an unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, as is customary with most donors. The Dixie Chicks' "offer" was actually in the nature of a business proposal, which called for the American Red Cross to publicly embrace a group of entertainers under fire during a widely publicized controversy of a political character. Since the American Red Cross-like other national Red Cross organizations around the world-- must operate within the bounds of its founding principles of impartiality and neutrality, the ongoing controversy made it impermissible for the Red Cross to associate itself with the band. The President's status as the Honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross was never a consideration in our decision. While the Red Cross maintains a National Celebrity Cabinet made up of 44 individuals, views expressed by our celebrity volunteers are those of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the American Red Cross. We have never engaged in a promotion with a celebrity during a widely publicized controversy. It is also worth noting that, prior to the controversy, the Chicks' management ignored two successive invitations from the American Red Cross to join the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet. Notwithstanding all the above, should the Dixie Chicks ever decide to join most of our donors and make an unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we would gladly accept it and put it to work towards our lifesaving mission.

We hope this information is helpful.
Sincerely,
American Red Cross Public Inquiry


And I said:

Dear Unnamed Red Cross Respondent:
While I certainly appreciate your explanation below, my critical thinking background sniffs out a good amount of equivocating and inference below. I cannot speak to whether the Red Cross extended an offer of membership in your "Celebrity Cabinet" to the Dixie Chicks' MANAGEMENT prior to the "controversy," but I can suggest that this fact would be erroneous to accepting or not accepting a donation at a later date, and seems to be somewhat of a diversionary tactic--something many Americans have come to know as characteristic spin.


You Say:
"There was no offer of an unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross, as is customary with most donors. The Dixie Chicks' "offer" was actually in the nature of a business proposal, which called for the American Red Cross to publicly embrace a group of entertainers under fire during a widely publicized controversy of a political character."


My Response:
It seems entirely out of character for the Dixie Chicks particularly, or any other entertainer (particularly ones who had the savvy and exposure of the Dixie Chicks) with even the most minute knowledge of the entertainment business, to suggest a donation to the American Red Cross attached to some sort of business partnership or "endorsement." I grew up in Los Angeles and know something about entertainment, and I imagine that the gift might have been extended with a note that the American Red Cross could display their logo at Dixie Chicks concerts, which is a standard courtesy. But to suggest that the Dixie Chicks management demanded a literal endorsement from a Non-Profit Organization, one which featured the object of their controversy as Honorary Chairman, simply doesn't ring true. When one carefully reads your words, one notices that you use innuendo here: "... offer was actually IN THE NATURE OF a business proposal ..." I suppose you could inject that intent into any transaction with impunity. The remainder of that sentence reveals the subtext of your response.


Finally, I wonder if the Red Cross refuses to take donations from 99% of America's comedians who regularly enjoy profits from mocking the G.O.P. and the realm of politics in general, or from football teams that have players involved in legal actions (or even convictions) against them, or from corporations who pollute the environment or hire unskilled labor in third world countries and pay them substandandard wages? I wonder if your ethics extend into these gray areas, or if you just jumped on a hotseat bandwagon and decided to play it safe.

When a situation begs for financial relief, I will donate my money elsewhere, and will encourage my friends and family to do the same. Thank you for your time.

And their final note is the one captioned at the top of this exchange.Thought some of you might find this as interesting an exchange as I did.

1 Comments:

At 4:39 AM, Blogger Linda said...

Hi Pamela,

I read your email chain regarding the Dixie Chicks and the American Red Cross. I understand where you are coming from but wanted to share my two cents as someone who has negotiated many cause marketing relationships between non-profits and corporations/entertainment entities.

Corporations/entertainment entities and non-profit organizations enter into business relationships all the time. These relationships are different than just making a financial donation to the organization. They involve contracts that spell out benefits for both parties involved. For corporations/entertainment entitities, the biggest benefit is the perceived value associated with the non-profit. Research shows that consumers are more likely to buy products or services from companies that are associated with credible charities. Associations such as these also build brand loyalty. In the case of the Dixie Chicks (I'm a big fan by the way - just saw them in D.C. this past summer while vacationing), I'm sure they wanted the benefit of being associated with a well-respected, national charity that holds many of the same values as their fans -- helping out neighbors in need. I can understand why the Red Cross chose not to enter into the agreement. Because so many Chicks' fans were up in arms about their comments made on that London stage, entering into an agreement at that time could have cost the Red Cross far more than the one million $$ sponsorship/promotional fee (alienation from all those so-called fans).

And to clarify, a straight donation would have been just that... a donation sent to the Red Cross no strings attached. A business agreement involves negotiated benefits on behalf of both parties. In this case, the Chicks would have likely wanted the Red Cross to promote the "donation" on its' website, and the Chicks would have likely wanted to promote their support of the organization on it's web sites and in its' public relations activities. In turn, they most likely offered the Red Cross expsoure opportunities at concerts and through other activities, in addition to the one million bucks.

As I said before, I'm a big fan of the Dixie Chicks and one of the reasons why is because they are strong, very talented WOMEN not afraid to do stand out and not conform to what people think they should be. In this case, it's the fans that we should be disappointed in... not the Red Cross, and certainly not the Chicks themselves.

Lastly, I have to say to that I saw the Red Cross in action when a family member's house burned down. They do good things and are made up of wonderful people. I encourage you to not lose sight of the Red Cross in your community that is helping, perhaps your family or neighbors,in a time of need. By choosing not to support the work of the Red Cross, you are essentially choosing not to help those in your community who experience a house fire or earthquake.

Ok, that's my two cents! Thanks for listening.

Linda

 

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