Monday, October 4, 2010

Charitably giving? Caveat emptor.

My recent visit to Canby, OR for the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival (you can check out the photos here) coincided with Share Our Strength's annual Great American Dine Out. For those who may not be familiar with the Great American Dine Out, during one week each year, participating restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds to Share Our Strength. It is one prong of a five-pronged approach Share Our Strength utilizes in raising funds to help end American childhood hunger. I have participated in the past through a different prong – I’ve hosted a Great American Bake Sale.

So, before I left for Canby, I checked online and found a participating local restaurant, the Rivershore Bar and Grill in nearby Oregon City, and was excited to help the cause this year in this way. When I got to the restaurant, I ordered a small house salad (surprisingly fresh greens!), a burger (ho-hum), and a glass of house merlot (nothing memorable).

I decided to ask my waitress about the Rivershore’s participation in the Great American Dine Out. After initially not recognizing the event (which was my first tip the conversation would not go well), she let me know that the only way one could get the restaurant to make a donation (of $1 per glass) was through a patron’s purchase of wine from a particular winery – Jacob’s Creek. Ok, so I tried to order an additional glass of red because, hey, I was dining in the Willamette Valley – one America’s best known pinot noir-producing areas. But, no. The restaurant only had Jacob’s Creek chardonnay available. In the heart of pinot noir country. For a non-profit donation promotion of $1 per glass that would last one week. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed with the Great American Dine Out.

I have corresponded with the director of the Great American Dine Out, and while I appreciate the quick, personal response, the anemic quality of the defense of the event left me rather cold. While I cannot know with any certainty, I expect that my humble, one-day bake sale last year (which took in about $300) raised more money for Share Our Strength than did the Rivershore Bar and Grill in an entire week.

In a time when charitable giving is down, I choose to focus my time and dollars on giving that is targeted and transparent. Any benefit the restaurant may have garnered because of its association with Share Our Strength may be short-lived. Additionally, Share Our Strength has lost some goodwill. In future, I’ll stick to my own baking efforts.

If you have any Share Our Strength stories I’d appreciate hearing them, so please leave a comment and let’s compare charitable notes, alright?

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