Gathering Places


Aloha United Way
works to maintain
public’s trust

In a world where skepticism about business practices is spreading to the operations of charitable organizations, it's worth taking a moment to reflect, maybe even celebrate, that something is working as it should in Hawaii.

I'm talking about Aloha United Way, now winding down its 2002 campaign in which about $13 million will be raised through local contributions to maintain the safety net that holds our community together.

Each AUW dollar contributed is carefully monitored to make sure the campaign totals are accurate and the money reaches the agencies that respond to a wide range of community needs.

I mention this because, as the New York Times recently reported, questions are arising about accounting practices used to track donations by selected United Way organizations on the mainland. Because the article was published in the Star-Bulletin, it's worth noting how AUW differs from procedures elsewhere.

The article charged that some United Ways -- Chicago and Washington, D.C., in particular -- were artificially inflating their fund-raising totals by millions to enhance their record of success. Two of the most glaring discrepancies cited were the counting of the same donations by two or more United Ways, and assigning a dollar value to time freely contributed by volunteers.

I can attest unequivocally that the charges levied in the article do not apply to AUW.

The general campaign goal annually established by AUW and the final fund-raising total consist almost exclusively of the actual money received. For example, in 2001 AUW established a campaign goal of $13.6 million and raised $14.3 million, a tremendous testament to the generosity of Hawaii's people, considering the incredible strain that 9/11 placed on our economy and companies statewide.

That $14.3 million effectively represented the funds collected by AUW, with the exception of approximately $19,000 in in-kind gifts, which were comprised of interisland flight coupons donated by Aloha Airlines and computers donated by IBM. The coupons and computers were donated to community agencies to better serve their clients.

Significantly, these in-kind gifts represented only a little more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the total funds collected.

AUW takes great pride in the openness with which we operate our organization. Our books are always open for review and we're happy to share our objectives and accomplishments with anyone who will listen.

AUW is independently audited each year and our bookkeeping is conducted in tight conformance with generally accepted accounting principles and the rules established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Our finances are meticulously documented to assure the greatest possible accuracy in the collection and disbursement of monies raised.

Furthermore, we enjoy the benefits of having an active and knowledgeable board of directors. These community-minded volunteers, including those who sit on our finance committee, are all highly respected, longtime Hawaii residents dedicated to serving the ideals for which AUW stands.

AUW is the only organization in Hawaii that assesses community needs and responds accordingly. Our network of 64 agencies relies on our support, and consequently on the generosity of Hawaii's people, to help those in the community who depend on their services.

What most concerns us at AUW about the New York Times article is that the people who read it might be inclined to withhold a donation or quit volunteering on our behalf.

Please don't.

The people most affected would be the ones who critically need your help -- the poor, the abused, the hungry, the young and the very old.

AUW's beneficiaries also include hopeful teens seeking a fresh start on life, young adults training for new careers and devoted family providers in between jobs. You can find them in every neighborhood, from Kailua to Kakaako and from Haleiwa to Hawaii Kai. There is no denying the reach and impact that AUW carries within our community. About 450,000 people are touched by AUW each year.

Don't just take our word. Contact the agencies we serve, such as Child and Family Service, Salvation Army, and Parents and Children Together, and ask what happens when public support for AUW declines.

We appreciate and thank everyone who has donated their hard-earned money or volunteered their time on AUW's behalf. Please be assured that your contribution is invaluable.

AUW will never stop working to earn and keep your trust.

For more information about AUW, please visit our Web site at or call our office at 536-1951.

Irving Lauber is president of Aloha United Way.

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