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United Way and the Boy Scout of America

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The United Way realized that the national Boy Scout of America policy that allowed discrimination against avowed gays goes against its own antidiscrimination policies. However the national UW permits local UW chapters to determine their own antidiscrimination policies. And that is how Larry Norvell (local head of the UW of Columbia) had to face the issue of allocations to the local BSA organization — Cascade pacific Council of the Boy Scouts of America (CPCBSA). The central dilemma for Norvell is whether or not to address the discriminatory actions of the BSA and CPCBSA organizations and what the impact of this decision will mean to his organization stakeholders (e.g. board members, UWCW personnel) as well to other groups of stakeholders such as the donors, the agency heads (including Larry Otto, executive director of the CPCBSA), and the community people. The concern for stakeholders here is that ultimately the UWCW is around to assist organizations by providing funding to better the community as a whole. 100% of contributions go to agencies, as such the only people who will directly be impacted by a drop in contributions would be the people who need those the most.

This is a controversial case and in such cases opinions are always divided. Those siding with the Boy Scouts (and any decision of Larry’s to continue financial support for the local Boy Scout unit) might feel that it would be unethical for the Scouts to abandon their stand against practices which some view as immoral. Even the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the BSA is allowed to continue to determine who could or could not join their organization — private organization is allowed, under specific and certain criteria, to exclude a person from receiving a membership through their First Amendment right to freedom of association. Opposition to homosexuality is part of the Boy Scout of America’s expressive message and allowing homosexuals to assume the role of a leader within the organization would be interfering with the group’s message. This discrimination while it seems unethical for some it is legal and it is a right awarded to private organizations throughout the United States and is protected under the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution, which grants the right to freedom of association in spite of various state or anti-discrimination laws.

Those demanding that Larry end financial support to CPCBSA may have a much different view of immorality. In fact, those opposing Boy Scout support may view as immoral the views of immorality held by some of the Scout supporters. These opponents of support for the Scouts may wish to use the Scouts as a way of changing the policies of not only the Scouts but of other organizations as well. So, Larry Norvell faces an ethical issue and it is not likely that Larry will be able to handle this simply as a business decision. He and his board members must weigh the consequences for all of stakeholders before coming to a final decision. Furthermore, any realistic focus on the bottom line should make him aware that no matter what he does, there will be those who disapprove and will cease to contribute to the United Way. It is noteworthy that UW has a progressive donor-directed giving program in the country, which means that donors have the ability to direct their gifts to a specific agency or away from a specific agency. Hence, if donors feel an agency such as the BS is unacceptable to them, they have the option to determine where their donations should go.

Even though Larry Norvell and UWCW board members may agree with company’s policy against any kind of discrimination, it is relevant to take in consideration all the factors already discussed above including legal, business, and the community interests before coming to a decision to still support or not CPCBSA. Larry should not yield to coercion, that organizations should not be expected to go against their values (such as the national UW). Let’s not forget that many innocent people who benefit from Scouts programs would be harmed if support was withdrawn. Larry Norvell and board members should come to the final decision to let donors be the ones to decide if they want their gifts to go to BS or not.

This is the beauty to have a progressive donor-directed giving program in place; contributors have a voice that can be heard. Thus, Larry Norvell would be sharing the same position as Randall Stephenson — AT&T chairman, CEO and president who stated “Diversity and inclusion are part of AT&T’s culture and operations, and we’re proud to be recognized as a leader in this area. We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything” (as cited in Patrick, 2012, p.20). This statement clearly indicates that even though an organization is, for instance, antidiscrimination (and it should be) it still might be able to keep providing support to those that do not share the same view. At the end of the day communities are getting help from a diverse number of organizations with different missions and values.


Sullivan, P. (2012, August 1). Boy Scouts unmoved on gay policies. The Non-profit Times, 26 (11), 20. Retrieved from
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