Thursday, October 13, 2011

A greatly disappointing Sacramento Steps Forward donations-seeking email

Is Sacramento Steps Forward honest with the public?

A look at the Sacramento Steps Forward website, and an email I received from them this afternoon, makes me wonder if the hybrid charity/government organization is up to it to do the important task of raising money and saving homeless people this coming winter from the misery of sleeping outside.

SacStepsForward's email. Click to enlarge.
One would think that ANY group seeking donations from the public would know it is important to appear competent. Any email that is sent out should be accurate, honest and fully competently written. Indeed, it should be pristine, a thing of beauty. Several sets of eyes should look over any webpage, email, or document that is likely to be scrutinized by the public. This is so because most people won’t see the folks in an organization running around making good things happen; what they will see is that which is put in front of their nose – like on a computer monitor.

Too, any government organization (or nonprofit, for that matter, IMHO) has a sacred obligation to be wholly truthful. It should never lie or mislead. Honesty should be an absolute. Based on the SSF email I received today, I think the organization is chasing away possible donors – not just for today but for the future. Indeed, if anyone were to ask me, I would recommend NOT donating to Sacramento Steps Forward for, at least, the time being.

As you can see from the first graphic that comes with this blogpost, the email that was sent out begins with the onerous information that “Winter Shelter Should Begin” in 38 days. A reader can only suppose that they are being told there is a rush for Sacramento Steps Forward to meet the $100,000 donation-goal that has been set within a 38-day time frame.

Source of the Erlenbusch quote: SSF's Facebook site.
But, a look at SSF’s Facebook site shows that there is no such rush. There, Bob Erlenbusch is quoted in an Oct. 12 post saying, “We don’t need the $100,000 tomorrow, but it’d be nice to have it by the end of the year, before we get too deep into the season.” In other words, they don’t need the funding in 38 days, they just think “it’d be nice to have it” in 78 days. [I believe I’m correct in writing that Erlenbusch is on the Board of both SSF and the Leftist1 homeless-help charity Sacramento Housing Alliance. In years past, he was a Really Really Big Cheese in Homeless World Los Angeles before something happened and he came to ply his trade here is Sac, as a Small Cheese, starting one or two or three years ago.]

Panicking people to buy something or give money is a dishonest ploy. If Sacramento Steps Forward is intentionally trying to panic people, which by appearances they are, then they are weasels. BUT, even if the effort is not an intentional “bucks rush,” it is far from being an action that ‘keeps faith’ with the great good people of Sacramento, who are the source of the pay of the staffers of SSF and keep us, the county’s homeless, alive more than anyone. But, as I say, the organization should be keeping faith with the public, and be honest straight shooters WITHOUT NEED OF ANY REASON TO DO SO. Honesty should be second nature. Or, first nature, for that matter. Automatic. The default position, with no other position possible other than this ‘default.’

Also, SSF should not be ginning up any supposed magic of the $100,000 amount that it puts out there. For starters, the org was asking for dough a month or so ago, claiming that there was no government money forthcoming when they have to have known that the welfare department was in a process of delaying some of its payments as a means of gathering up some stash to partially fund winter homeless programs [and are now known to be the source of $150,000 that SSF has already received]. When SSF asks for money now, I have to think that there are possible grants in the wings that will fill-in for any shortfall in what was sought. If there are fill-in-the-gap grants laying in wait, SSF must let the public know this. The public is not a rube to be conned.

The email says, “If this gap isn't filled [that is, if the goal of raising $100,000 isn’t achieved], homeless families and vulnerable adults will be left with severely limited options this winter to get away from the cold and rain.” That just isn’t so. There is nothing magical about the amount SSF is seeking. Whatever is raised will be put to good use, very likely. But if it is less or more than $100,000, THAT amount – whatever it is – will be put to use eradicating homeless people’s winter misery. And, if Sacramento Steps Forward is a competent organization THAT will be of use eradicating people’s misery, because if SSF gains a golden, and deserved, reputation of being sincere and authentic to the public THAT will manifest in a beautiful relationship with the people of Sacramento and THAT will be of great use in eliminating misery.

And, finally, the short SSF email is poorly written. That is suggestive of bobbling the ball and not doing high-quality work in other, vital areas. The email says “You’ve raised $1,325.” No, I haven’t. I, Tom, am not seeking donations; SSF is. It says that money that came in earlier will fund “Winter Shelter programs, which provide extra shelter beds and motel vouchers for homeless families and disabled adults sleeping outside.” While we know the meaning that is intended, the message as written is weirdly funny. People aren’t sleeping outside if they’re sleeping in a shelter or motel.

A middle paragraph in the email is embolded. It reads thus:
$100,000 may seem like a daunting task. But did you know there are over 1.4 million people who live in Sacramento County? If every person donated even $1, we'd reach our goal. Easily.
This isn’t a biggie, but “$100,000” isn’t a task. RAISING $100,000 would be. As for the populous of Sacramento County, it is certainly the case that not every man, woman, child, toddler, or newborn will be donating a dollar. Online comments to articles about homelessness that appear in the Bee are in good majority damning of all homeless people. From this we know a great many in the county despise the undercaste – and would never consider sending in their supposed share, which would be, by the SSF figures, about seven cents. In any case, I am bewildered: I don’t find the bolded paragraph to be fun, interesting or meaningful. And I think that is because it’s not, it’s not, and it’s not.

C’mon, Sacramento Steps Forward: Do better. Act more mature, serious and honest. Act as if what you do matters in this crazy old world, because it can.
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1 Normally, mentioning political leanings would be inappropriate, but Homeless World Sacramento is anything but normal. Many charities in the homeless-aid industry [or, homeless-help racket as one longtime homelessness muckymuck calls the industry here] proselytize their often-goofy politics as much as do anything else. For the record: I don’t know anything specific about Erlenbusch’s personal political thinking. Also, for the record: I am homeless and liberal -- and decidedly not an advocate for totalitarianism, like many of the fuzzball executives of homeless charities, here, who mistakenly think themselves to be liberal … and sane.

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