Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

OneCause and universal promotions: A problem?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 08, 2009

A supporter of sent a message today indicating he had received an email from OneCause promoting Dell’s offer to donate $5.00 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for each pink laptop it sells. This was obviously designed as a non-controversial incentive for purchasing through OneCause to fight breast cancer.

Unfortunately, as our correspondent pointed out, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation also supports abortion, including grants to Planned Parenthood (despite the fact that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer). For this reason, he said, he would no longer shop through OneCause.

As you would expect, never participates in promotional programs designed specifically to benefit groups with agendas that undermine our own purposes. But there are also what we might call “universal” programs which are open to everybody. For example, one need not refuse to be listed in the yellow pages because groups with opposing values are also listed there; nor must one refrain from using the yellow pages for this reason. Rather, one chooses to advertise in the yellow pages if it will help one's business, and one chooses to look up businesses in the yellow pages if it provides a convenient solution to a need; otherwise not. Such universal promotional mechanisms inevitably reflect the good and the bad sides of the diversity of the culture in which we live.

Now it so happens that three of the promotional programs in which we are currently involved are “universal”: We receive referral fees from Amazon, we offer a credit card through CapitalOne, and we enable supporters to benefit our work by shopping through OneCause. The Amazon program is open essentially to anyone, the CapitalOne program is open to all non-profit organizations, and the OneCause program is open to all non-profits and all schools. It is a general characteristic of each program that it can be used to promote just about anything. Amazon sells many books and other products of which we disapprove, and it is at least likely that the portfolios of all three companies contain features we may not like. In all three cases, products are placed in the hands of, and fees are paid or donated to, individuals and organizations who work against the values for which we stand.

But the genius of these programs is that the money actually spent by users goes exclusively to the organizations those users wish to support. Thus, for example, OneCause may promote Dell's offer to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s effort to fight breast cancer, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation may use some of its resources to support abortion, but the fact remains that—if you’ve selected as your cause—the merchants you shop with through OneCause make donations out of your payments only to In other words, your money goes toward fighting the false values some other organizations promote.

Given how these programs work, I have no trouble with the intrinsic morality of participating, but I do see three issues of prudence. The first issue is whether some or all “universal” programs have a tendency to “dilute our brand” and breed doubts concerning our commitment by remotely associating with things that we oppose. The second is whether some or all programs will send unwanted, or even potentially offensive, promotional material to those who have registered only to support our cause, thereby alienating our supporters. And the third is whether some of our supporters might be misled into thinking an organization mentioned in emails from one of these promotional programs has been approved by, and so deserves their support.

If any of these issues becomes a problem, non-participation would certainly become the better course. But if they are not a problem, then giving supporters multiple ways to benefit our work is clearly a good thing all the way around. We welcome your thoughts on these issues, based both on your own weighing of the general pros and cons, and on your own particular experiences with these promotional programs.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dangersigns - Oct. 12, 2009 8:41 AM ET USA

    All good readers should be aware of the deceptive misinformation that is given regarding donation designation in the Combined Federal Campaign and other similar Campaigns run for the United Way. Donations MAY be designated to worthy recipients, however, this designation is unlikely to affect the overall budget of funding determined earlier by the U. W. (which includes funding PP).

  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Oct. 09, 2009 4:14 AM ET USA

    Interesting. I need to switch my buying through Amazon via One Cause to support Catholic Culture. I thought CC had an article or maybe it was New Oxford Review which had a spokesman say they did not get into arbitrary issues and focused solely on breast cancer. The spokesman said or perhaps inferred that Susan G. Komen did not want to alienate those in the pro-life movement. However, I am not sure. Can CC confirm this?

  • Posted by: williiam ronner - Oct. 08, 2009 9:19 PM ET USA

    I own an Oreck Vacuum store in Fishkill NY. The Oreck Corp sells a Komen Model vacuum in which it donates a portion of the sale to Komen. They have been advised that Komen donates to Planned Parenthood. I am the only Oreck Store in the country that refuses to carry this item. It has reduced my sales, but, to paraphrase Thomas More, I answer to Oreck, but God first!

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2009 8:54 PM ET USA

    All fund-raising campaigns cost money to run, including and especially United Way campaigns. Those expenses are deducted from the individual's donation somewhere along the way. It's just a matter of making giving convenient.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 08, 2009 4:33 PM ET USA

    Good point. The very strength of places like OneCause is that they are a direct conduit of funds. There is no slush fund; the designated charity gets it all. The Combined Federal Campaign run by the United Way does the same thing for all federal employees--there is one charity campagin per year and the giver gets to directly steer money into a charity of his choosing.