If you type ‘U.S. philanthropy re special needs kids’ into your search engine, you’ll find a collection of organizations that seem to do what CBC does: provide music-based experiences to young children and those with special needs. But look closely and you’ll discover several elements that set us apart from the rest. For example, many of the identified organizations work to provide support for “music education” (music lessons, musical instruments, etc.) for kids, while most of the organizations operate in a single state or a specific location within a sate (e.g., New York City).
CreativeBridge Coalition stands apart from all of these organizations in that we exist to bring music-based programs to young children and those with special needs in order to enable them to both experience musical interactions (as opposed to “learn” music, formally) and to grow in their social, cognitive and emotional development. Further, we have developed a successful model for engaging special needs students and have been able to replicate our success in multiple locations. We are actively working to expand to more.
We’re also quite different from those organizations with respect to funding sources. While we would welcome large grants from national organizations, federal initiatives and the like, our project funding comes from regional and small family foundations, small business owners, and a growing collection of generous individuals who share our middle class values and commitments. Apparently, our financial support base – like most other charitable organizations – remains reliant upon America’s working class.
According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, “Americans give an average of about 3 percent of their income to charity… But in recent years, Americans in different income brackets have diverged on the giving scale. Between 2006 and 2012, Americans earning $200,000 or more decreased the amount they gave to charity by 4.6 percent. In that same period, Americans earning less than $100,000 increased the amount they gave by 4.5 percent. And that increase was despite the fact that middle- and lower-income Americans were earning less than they did six years earlier, the report notes.”
Generally speaking, much of this charitable giving occurs at year’s end – a time when we, too, ask for your financial support. However, a sizable amount of this holiday season’s public generosity results from “cause marketing” – situations where some portion of what folks purchase (greeting cards, ornaments, t-shirts, etc.) goes to a specified charity. However, as the latest Consumer Reports (Dec. 2014) warns: “A donation-with-purchase might not be the best way to support a charity.”
The point of the Consumer Reports article is not to warn consumers about shady deals (though these do exist) but rather to invite donors to think more carefully about what they hope to accomplish. Companies that pursue cause marketing do so in large part to capture additional business. So if one truly wishes to purchase an unusual t-shirt or unique curio while knowing that some portion of the sale will go to a non-profit, then everything works out well. However, if one actually wishes to support the charity in question, then such marketing strategies are actually undermining the basic intent of “giving,” since, according to the article, “people gave less money in direct donations to charities when they [made] cause-marketing purchases.” Additionally, while direct donations to non-profits are tax deductible, money spent purchasing cause-marketed products are not (those tax deductions go to the company selling the product). Here’s the takeaway: “Though well-known charities often bring in lots of cause-marketing dollars, thousands of other, lesser-known causes – that will never see their name on a yogurt container – also need your support.”
We don’t expect to see CreativeBridge Coalition cutting a deal with a prominent yogurt producer any time soon. Instead, we’ll continue to seek direct, tax-deductible donations from working and middle class folks like us. Importantly, around 90% of your financial support goes directly into our classrooms serving kids, and as donors, you will always be welcome to visit our project sites to see what we’re doing and talk with those who participate in our efforts.
Bottom line: We’re unpaid volunteers looking for your support to sustain and grow something unique that we’ve managed to accomplish thus far.