If you have already heard this message, please excuse us for presenting it again: We really like letters to the editor. Letters usually offer a fresh point of view to any discussion. Letters can correct obvious mistakes, and also add nuances to a story that has been previously printed. And because a letter writer is representing only himself and is not expected to be the objective, open-minded reporter, letters can be strident, opinionated, and sharply critical.
In other words letters can be fresh in more ways than one.
As measured by the criteria above, we discovered a pretty good letter in our “firstname.lastname@example.org” mailbox on Wednesday, November 14. Since it came to our general inbox — instead of our editor’s inbox, email@example.com — it might have been passed over. But the subject line made it stand out from the usual spam and sales solicitations:
“Letter regarding United Way funding elimination for area services.”
It was from Mark Lamar, executive director of Family Guidance Center of Nottingham, who got right to the point. “United Way of Greater Mercer County recently announced its plan to defund a number of long standing nonprofit organizations.”
Lamar noted that “United Way’s drifting direction is troubling. United Way has changed its role as a community fund raiser and will, according to CEO Herb Klein III, begin to provide services at United Way itself. United Way is also no longer funding emergency food programs for our area’s neediest families, citing this sector as unattractive to donors.”
Needless to say we ran that letter in the very next issue, November 21. Now, two weeks later, we are printing on page 35 of this issue a comprehensive article by Michele Alperin on all sides of the rift between the United Way and some of the nonprofits that used to operate under its umbrella. Business people who have long urged nonprofits to behave in a more businesslike manner will admire Herb Klein of United Way for his hard-nosed approach to social service, including his quote from former ITT executive Harold Geneen: “That which is measured is done.”
On the other hand Mark Lamar is not exactly your typical bleeding heart, hand outstretched charity worker. He is not only a part-time lecturer at Rutgers School of Social Work, but also a recipient of a Rutgers MBA. “I love business,” Lamar told Alperin. “Nonprofits are businesses.”
Speaking of letters and good causes, we received another letter from Jeff Nathanson, executive director, of the Arts Council of Princeton. His subject: “Why Give to the ACP’s Annual Fund Drive this year?” His answer:
• Because you believe in the power of art to connect and inspire all of us.
• Your support enables us to deliver high-quality FREE outreach programs to at-risk youth, seniors, and other hard-to-reach audiences.
• Your tax-deductible donation of any amount truly makes a difference: $100 supports a free creative workshop for seniors; $500 provides a two week scholarship for summer art camp; and $1,000 underwrites one week of free after-school art classes for 100 at-risk youth.