Monday, July 21, 2008

It's not a charity. (Perhaps it's simply a good idea.)

Earlier this evening, I had the good fortune of being interviewed by Beth Kidd, for her CBS Radio program, Northern Lites. (The program will air on Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. on 102.9 WLTE-FM, and on KZJK 104.1 HD-2.) Toward the end of the conversation, we got to talking about the importance of charity… and I made it very clear that is not a non-profit organization. It is simply a good idea. Following the thread of thought, Beth asked why. Good question: And I’m not sure I had really thought it out until that time.

First of all, lots of non-profit organizations start out as very thoughtful, well-intended ideas… but before long, become so large that the principles spend a significant amount of time and other resources focusing on administration. I have no desire to turn our project into a pile of paperwork, adding the complexity of lawyers and accountants, or soliciting money.

Secondly, I don’t have any desire to complete with other charities. While river restoration is something I am quite passionate about (no, really?)... who am I to say that my project or cause is more important than a child who is hungry? Or a man who is homeless? Or a woman who is suffering from a life-altering or life-ending disease?

I'm not sure CleanUpTheRiver should be among those charities which plead, “Pick me, pick me!” when people are trying to decide where to throw their financial support… in a world where so much help is needed in so many ways. There are so many organizations worthy of financial support. And with regard to river stewardship, there are already several non-profit options where people can make a tax-deductable contribution. [Shameless plug: Choose a local organization... such as Friends of the Mississippi, or maybe the St. Croix River Association.]

Finally, I’d like to be proof that writing a check is not the only way to provide value to the world you live in. Anyone can grab a couple of garbage bags when they're heading out to their nearby park, trail, lake or river. On your way to the office, pick up a plastic bottle that someone has tossed in the street, and put it in a recycling bin. Or volunteer for a shoreline clean-up. Any of that would be of help, and value. Any of these actions demonstrates your ability to improve a place.

At, Julie and I ave tried to keep our needs simple. A few key supporters have provided us with some wonderful tools and help. That’s about all we need… unless you’d like to roll up your sleeves, put on a pair of tennis shoes you don’t mind trashing, and joining us for a clean-up project.

Perhaps it might make sense to become a non-profit organization at some point--or a not-for-profit business entity--if we decide that best suits the objectives of the project. But for now, is just a good idea. As we’ve said before, “Somebody, somewhere, needed to do this at one time or another.”

It might as well be us, here, and now.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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