applauds our positive fundraising methods

A guy named Mike Ervin lives in our apartment building here in Chicago –- Mike was a poster child for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the 1960s, and today he’s an activist who challenges the MDA’s representation of people with disabilities in its annual telethon. I’ve learned a lot from Mike, and I was particularly pleased to find Easter Seals mentioned in a blog post as an example of how a non-profit organization can raise funds in a positive way.

The post quotes Evan Kemp, Jr., Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under George H. Bush and EEOC commissioner under Reagan.

By focusing on innocent children, the telethon, he said, “seems to proclaim that the only socially acceptable status for disabled people is their early childhood. The handicapped child is appealing and huggable–the adolescent or mature adult is a cripple to be avoided.” Kemp objected that the telethon focused on the tragedy of a small number of children who died from muscular dystrophy, when in reality a far greater number of adults, like himself, lead normal lives with neuromuscular conditions.

Last year’s Easter Seals’ Living with Autism Study provided us with quantifiable information to help us raise awareness of — and advocate for — the services people living with autism will need not only as children, but as adults, too. The study gave us a better appreciation of what our constituents need from us. The post pointed out another way we are listening to our constituents:

As “world autism awareness day” and “autism awareness month” bombard us with fundraising requests and panicked images of “innocent children” or the “bravery of those who overcome autism,” remember that the path to eliminating these destructive stereotypes has been walked before. Major charities such as Easter Seals and United Cerebral Palsy have listened to their constituents, and changed their fundraising tactics to remove the pity messages–without hurting their fundraising.

Can’t wait to share this post with Mike.


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  1. Jacqueline Says:

    Great post. I agree. Let’s take the focus off of the “tragedy of the autistic child” and work on making this world more welcoming and accessible to people on all parts of the spectrum.

  2. Maddy Says:

    Yes accentuate the positive and appreciate the great number of adults moving productively through the world.
    Best wishes

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