Delegates to this year's South Carolina AFL-CIO convention received a leaflet from a new statewide group set up to compete with the United Way, the nation's largest and best known fund-raising organization.
"Existing charitable federations use pressure tactics to extract contributions so their executives can hang gold plaques in their offices," read the leaflet. "Along the way, they have also claimed credit for the money you have given, while leaving you completely out of the decision-making."
The leaflet, designed to persuade union locals to obtain payroll deductions from employers for the Other Way of South Carolina, tells something about the intensity of the "Charity War," as some professional fundraisers call the bitter conflict.
Most of the assaults are aimed at the United Way, which raised $1.3 billion in nationwide contributions in 1978, three times more than its nearest competitor.
The venerable fund-raising federation is under attack by newer, often more controversial organizations representing women, monorities, environmentalists and other constituencies, as well as a few older, better established health agencies that charge they have been either excluded from membership or denied the use of the payroll deduction checkoff they see as the secret of the United Way's success.
Only 6 percent of the 700,000 tax exempt agencies involved in the $40-billion-a-year business of charitable fund-raising are aided by the United Way. Most of the UW's support goes to traditional service agencies such as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, YMCA and Boy Scouts.
The average annual turnover among United Way's member agencies is only 1 percent, according to a study done for the Filer Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs by Boston College sociologist David Horton Smith.
The National Black United Fund, which competes with the United Way in cities with large black population, has aid that less that 3 percent of the older organization's money goes to black organizations. However, a 1978 survey cited by the UW indicates that 8.5 percent of its funds go to agencies controlled by blacks and other monorities.
Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country have been expelled from the United Way whenever they opened abortion clinics. The Gary, Ind., UW defended such a 1977 decision by saying it had to "represent a composite set of values acceptable to virtually all citizens of the area."
The funding organization struck a similar note in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., this year, when it rejected the local chapter of the Brown Lung Association (BLA), an advocy group representing workers suffering from byssinosis, or "brown lung disease," and other respiratory diseases caused by inhaling cotton dust in textile mills.
"We feeel that the Roanoke Valley United Way cannot afford to become involved with a controversial agency such as yours," read the letter of rejection. "Acceptance of your group might lead to reduced community support for our other agencies."
Roanoke Rapids was the site in 1974 of the first union organizing victory over the giant textile concern, J.P. Stevens & Co., long a foe of organized labor.
The BLA's efforts to get federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Agencies (OSHA) to lower dust levels in southern textile mills, and to force reluctant companies to pay workmen's compensation to BLA members, have stirred community passions in Roanoke Rapids and in the 11 other textile towns in North and South Carolina where local United Way boards refused the organization's funding request this year.
"One of the reasons textile companies like to put their executives on the (UW) boards is so they can keep groups like Brown Lung from getting any money," said Woodrow Gunther, an attorney who serves on the United Way board in Rockingham, N.C.
"People who make claims when they get sick or hurt tend to be looked down on by the people who have to pay them," said Gunther, who handles workmen's compensation claims for BLA members. "There's not much chance the businessmen who sit on United Way boards will ever approve of occupational health groups like BLA."
The Washington-based National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), an umbrella group that represents about 100 activist organizations such as the BLA, Sierra Club, National Organization for Women's legal defense and education fund. Gray Panthers, and the National Black United Fund, charges that the Unite Way is unresponsive to those most in need, in part because it 2,300 local boards are dominated by businessmen and their wives.
"That's eyewash," said David Atwood, executive director of the United Way of Greater Greensboro N.C. and target of perhaps the BLA's heaviest criticism on the fund-raising issue. "There isn't any community where the top leadership doesn't have to run the fund-raising to make it go," he s said. "The implication is that you need mill workers or rubber workers to run the United Way. It wouldn't fly. They couldn't get the support you need to be successful."
Brown Lung Association members protested their rejection by the Greensboro US this fall by leafleting Cone Mills -- whose employees gave about 10 percent of the money in last year's local UW campaign -- asking textile workers there to contribute to the BLA rather than the United Way.
The association's chief fund-raiser, Diane Smith, said Atwood "spouted" the company line" in saying the BLA was duplicating services already provided by the textile industry and government occupational health and safety agencies.
"I'd have to be an idiot not to know what the textile executives on our board are thinking," said Atwood, "but I've had no pressure from them, no phone calls."
The friendly, effusive Atwood becomes angry when reminded of the BLA and other groups connected with the responsive-philanthropy committee, NCRP. "They want to get their hands on what they refer to as 'easy money' to be had from payroll deductions," he contends.
Few activists would argue with Atwood. The system of workplace solicitation and payroll deduction pipneered by the United Way in 1949 is generally considered the cheapest and most effective method of fund-raising, costing local UW's about 6 percent of the money raised.
Organizations promoting social change are finding their traditional fund-raising techniques too expensive or time-consuming, according to Mike Russell, one of the organizers of the Other Way.
"Door-to-door canvassing has been the best fund-raising method for grass-roots organizations," said Russell. "But the solicitation costs are usually 30 to 50 percent, because you have to maintain a fulltime convassing staff in addition to your regular organizing staff."
Russell said other typical grass- roots fund-raising schemes (bake sales, fish fries, benefit concerts) cost less in overhead, but requires community organizations to spend more time raising money than addressing the needs of their constituents.
The NCRP charges that the United Way has monopolized the charitable checkoff deduction, citing a 1978 UW study showing that 89 percent of its local agncies had no competition at any of the companies where they solicited.
A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles last year ordered the United Way there to let its member charities accept funds from another fund-raising federation, the Associated In-Group Donors, and to curtail its efforts to eliminate the rival group, Timithy Saasta, NCRP's assistant director, said the United Way induced over 180 companies to rescind its California competitor's solicitation rights, causing the other group's income to drop from $18 million to $8.5 million in one year.
Saasta said a UW memo warned member agencies that their United Way funding would be cut off if they accepted money from the other federation.
The United Way won a suit brought against it by the San Francisco-area Combined Health Agencies Drive that charged one local UW with threatening to boycott businesses allowing the health federation to campaign on their premises.
Pressure from employers to contribute to UW is a common complaint. "A helpful attitude is important in any kind of retailing," said a former branch bank manager in Durham, N.C. "A teller or sales clerk who doesn't cooperate by giving . . . sometimes finds her reputation for customer relations called into question."
"'Pressure' is a very misused word," said Atwood, claiming that its application was often unintentional or imagined
"We have husbands call here complaining that their wives are being pressured," he said, "when I think they just want an excuse not to give."
The NCRP criticized the major television networks last week for broadcasting UW public service announcements during National Football League games, and petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to force the networks to present "the other side" of a controversial charity issue, Robert O. Bothwell, the activist coalition's executive director, said the announcements, which feature a player from the game and the slogan, "Thanks to you, it works for all of us," give "a fraudulent and inaccurate impression of American philanthroph."
Inflation has intensified the competition for charitable dollars by increasing administrative costs and eroding donors' ability to give, but the rising expectations of the professional organizers and acativists who staff groups like the Brown Lung Association also are a factor.
"What we're saying is, 'We need enough money so we can grow up and have families and, God forbid, buy a home like anybody else,' said Smith of the Brown Lung Association.
"Right now nost community organizations are staffed by young people who devote a couple of years to organizing until they get tired of eating beans and rice, or decide they don't want to rent for the rest of their lives," she said. "Then they take the experience and contacts like Burlington Industries (the nation's largest textile manufacturer) which sort of defeats our whole purpose.
Smith said no BLA employee earns more than 6,500 a year.