Chase Gives Gerson the Last-Minute Boot from Community Giving Contest
First, we want to say thank you to everyone who voted for Gerson during the Chase Community Giving contest and who encouraged others to vote. You all are great! Unfortunately, Chase is not.
Wednesday afternoon, we were in 111th place out of thousands of charities across the nation, with 1726 votes. Even if we hadn’t received a single additional vote during the last six hours of the campaign, we would have earned a $10,000 grant! Yet in those last six hours, we were shocked when Chase informed us that we had been suddenly disqualified from the competition, and gave us no explanation why.
Though we had some misgivings about entering the contest in the beginning, we soon became excited when your votes started coming in, and we realized that we could actually have a shot at winning a grant! We put mentions of the contest in our eBulletins, Facebook and Twitter posts, and most of the responses we received were very positive – our supporters were happy to mobilize in support of our cause. Every “like” and “share” on our Facebook statuses gave us a thrill of excitement.
We checked the Chase Community Giving website over and over, delighted to see new votes coming in and to see our name steadily climbing up the leaderboards!
We noted a few comments from our supporters who expressed dissatisfaction at seeing us enter into a contest with Chase. We felt a twinge of guilt, but our excitement and the excitement of the rest of our supporters pushed those nagging feeling to the side for the time being.
This experience, if nothing else, has taught us to trust our gut instincts.
On Wednesday afternoon, we received a phone call from Chase Community Giving, informing us that we had been disqualified, just a few hours before voting was set to close and the winners to be announced.
Though we pressed repeatedly for an explanation, Chase officials refused to tell the Institute what specific part of the program rules they believed had made us suddenly ineligible.
A few minutes later, we checked the Chase Community Giving website, only to find that our charity profile had been deleted.
After poring over the program rules, we still cannot find any provision which we violated. As of this time they have not responded to our email request for more information, and our efforts to find other ways to contact them have proven fruitless.
We carefully read through all the program rules and regulations before submitting our application. We satisfied all the eligibility rules. In order for a charity to be eligible for this contest, they must be a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization with an operating budget under $10 million. Check and check – the Gerson Institute is a 501(c)3, and our operating budget is well below $10 million.
Since alternative health care can be controversial, we carefully read through the types of groups whose missions Chase overtly stated that they did not want to support. We saw no indication from the program rules that our mission would not be suitable, so we sent in all the required documentation.
After Chase reviewed our application, we were accepted and entered into the contest. In several places on their website, Chase tells voters that all the charities featured in the contest were reviewed for eligibility before the beginning of the contest, which implies that Chase should have already weeded out the charities they did not wish to support.
We did, however, note this provision:
“Chase retains the right at its sole discretion to determine eligibility and reserves the right to disqualify any charity at any time for any reason whatsoever.”
Perhaps we were naïve, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that, since Chase Community Giving had invited us to enter the program and then reviewed and accepted our application, we wouldn’t be arbitrarily disqualified.
We were wrong.
The Gerson Institute is not the first organization to receive the last-minute boot from Chase Community Giving. In 2009, The New York Times reported that at least three organizations with “controversial” missions had been eliminated from the Chase Community Giving program at the very last minute and without explanation. By digging a little deeper online, we have found a few other charities that have complained about being abruptly removed, or having their votes taken away without explanation.
We know that some people find our organization and mission controversial. Alternative, holistic therapies are still not widely accepted, especially for the treatment of cancer.
We don’t expect every person or organization to support us, and we believe Chase has the right to decide what charities with which it wants to associate.
What isn’t fair is allowing organizations to enter the contest, convince their supporters to share their information with Chase, boost Chase’s image by spreading the word about their charitable programs – and then pull the rug out from underneath charities at the last minute because they decide that their mission isn’t quite in line with the image Chase wants to project.
It appears that our organization is acceptable as long as we’re promoting Chase’s corporate giving program, but not worthy of public recognition or to receive funding.
Chase is not quite in line with their own mission either. Their website claims that the purpose of Chase Community Giving is to democratize corporate giving, by letting the people decide which charities deserve their support:
“You decide what matters: that simple idea is what Chase Community Giving is all about. Since 2009, we’ve been putting the power of giving in the hands and hearts of the community.”
– from Chase Community Giving’s website
The problem is, Chase can so easily take that power back from your “hands and hearts,” and disregard your votes at their own discretion.
This experience has taught us a few valuable lessons
We’re going to be far more careful about getting involved in large corporate giving contests that require us to engage in marketing for them. We’re going to remember that energy matters; if we’re not sure that a potential donor is in line with our greater vision and values, then maybe we should reconsider participating. We learned that we know a lot of great people who want to support us.
Still, we wouldn’t mind if you gave Chase Community Giving a piece of your mind, to let them know that what they did to Gerson and other charities is wrong. You can “unlike” Chase Community Giving on Facebook (or alternatively, write them a comment letting them know how you feel). You can go to your Facebook Privacy Settings and remove the Chase App. You can send Chase Community Giving an email asking them to change the way they run the contest so that charities can’t be disqualified without reason at the last moment – firstname.lastname@example.org.
We may not be able to get the money you earned for us, but we may be able to convince Chase to change the rules so that other charities and their supporters don’t face the same feelings of disappointment, and so that other small charities such as ourselves don’t waste their time chasing grant money that was never intended to be given them.
Thank you for your support. In our minds, YOU DID earn us that $10,000 grant (in spirit, if not in dollars and cents).
Your support for our cause is invaluable, and we apologize from the bottom of our hearts for involving you in this sorry affair.
Love and veggie juice,
Mikhaela Payden-Travers and Ally Bacaj
An Update and a Call to Action!
- Update: What We Learned from Chase: Trust Community, Not Corporations
- Sign Our Petition! Chase: Don’t Exploit Small Charities!