Immigration Backlash in Chatham

The News and Observer reports that the United Way of Chatham County has abruptly cut their funding to El Vinculo Hispano (The Hispanic Liaison). The United Way says that their move is because the organization has an overly high percentage of their budget dedicated to administrative costs. However, there seems to be ample evidence that the move is also motivated by a backlash to EVH's successful organization of immigrants rights rallies and advocacy in Siler City and Chatham County.

The N&O obtained an email from the United Way to a Chatham County resident that read in part "Members of our board and many of our donors are concerned about the recent political activism engaged in by the Hispanic Liaison . . . There were also concerns raised that encouraging illegal activities, such as keeping children away from school, should not be supported with United Way funds. Undoubtedly, these concerns weighed on the decision to deny funding the agency." Note: EVH did not use United Way funds for the immigration rallies they organized, nor did they recommend that students miss school. One supporter pointed out in a letter to the United Way that even for those parents who did take their children out of school, "This would not be the first time that Chatham County parents took their children out of class for one day so that the entire family could participate in an important civic exercise, something that teachers might argue is a teachable moment."

Since many Latinos who live in Chatham work in Orange (and vice versa), this should be of interest to our community as well. If EVH loses their United Way funding, they also risk losing another major grant from the Governor's Crime Council which required the UW funding for a cash match.

You can support El Vinculo Hispano by contacting the Chatham United Way or by pledging to support the organization directly.





When I saw that article in the N&O just now, I wondered if a letter to United Way of Orange County, to which I contribute, would help. I plan to say that I can't renew my support next year unless El Vinculo is funded.

Do you think that would help?


They're separate organizations, so my guess is that it wouldn't make that big of a difference. As in many other cases, people from Chatham probably don't want those from Orange telling them what to do.

But, you might call the Triangle United Way and see if they are taking a stand on the issue or communicating with the Chatham branch in any way.

I coordinated the United Way fundraiser at the Bankruptcy court I worked at in Greensboro. I could have sworn that they told us that there was a definite maximum to overhead costs of the member organizations. Perhpaps the local United Ways are different, because I couldn't find that anywhere on the Chatham or national websites.

Although it's unfortunate that this organization is losing its United Ways dollars--I'm not quite seeing why there is such concern for UWCC to reverse its decision.

What I liked about UW was that it did screen organizations. I think it's a marvelous improvement from solicitations in front of stores, on street medians, knocks on my door or phone calls at home. Aside from knowing that UW organizations are legitimate, I also know that they have an audit system that assures me that the vast majority of the dollars are going to help those in need--not to salaries.

I like Graig's second suggestion that those concerned should pledge directly to El Vinculo. This would lower their overhead to the previous and normal percentage, while maintaining the integrity of UW's standards.

A few years ago, the United Way - at the behest of it's heavy-hitter CP&L - cut NCWARN out of it's donor list. The United Way is yet another example of how the status-quo corporate economy keeps the herd in line. It's a tough situation when organizations have become dependent on the UW money, but ultimately a progressive economy must reject this type of feudalism charity.

Contacting the Triangle United Way and asking about the official organization position on political advocacy is probably a good starting point. I am sorry the N&O didn't include that as part of their report. If someone gets that background, I hope you will report back. The United Way provides excellent service to a full spectrum of social service agencies. I would not like to see a backlash against them.

The percentage of overhead is an important issue and was the cause for El Centro in Carrboro losing some of their Human Services funding from the towns and county last year. The proactive solution was to provide funding for strategic planning that would then make them eligible for full funding in the next budget cycle.

Having worked for a United Way-supported nonprofit, I know it has it's financial advantages, but it also comes with a mountain of paperwork and severe limitations on critical work like advocating for policies that help clients and community organizing that can break the cycle of problems they face.

The Chatham situation is a perfect illustration of this paradox.

They're a great organization, but the United Ways only support a narrow range of nonprofits. I recommend looking for other ways to support community-based organizations that are more in line with donors own values.

There are many workplace giving programs out there. United Way is one, but it is also worth noting North Carolina Community Shares (social justice organizations):

and EarthShare of North Carolina (environmental protection groups):

And I think there is one that advocates for organized labor related charities, but I cannot remember the name just now. State employees can give to (almost?) any of these groups through the North Carolina Combined Campaign.

Here's an update from El Vinculo Hispano:

Dear Friends,

First, I would like to thank those of you who signed our petition to the United Way and/or send letters or emails on behalf of El Vínculo Hispano/Hispanic Liaison.

Your support truly meant a lot to us and has made the whole difference in this case. I believe that the United Way granted us a meeting because of your urging and your concern about the freedom of non-profit organizations to advocate on behalf of its constituents.

So, what has happened since? On Friday, July 14, myself, Ivan Remnitz, our Board President and our accountant met with about 10 members of the United Way Board.  Our accountant presented a history of our administrative costs since our inception in 1995, showing that the only year we exceeded the United Way's recommended 25% admin costs was in 2004/2005, which was due to a leadership transition in the organization. The accountant also projected our current administrative costs for 2005/2006 to be 23.4%, below the United Way's recommendation.

Ivan and I presented on the main issue of concern, which was El Vínculo's participation in the national days of action on April 10 and May 1. The presentation was followed by about 1/2 hour of questions from Board members. The meeting was cordial and we were glad for the opportunity to address their concerns, since we had no idea that there were any concerns over our activities until one week after we were denied funding.

Now the matter will go back to the Executive Committee (we still don't know who belongs to this committee because the United Way did not want to divulge their names), and then to the entire Board for a vote on July 27.

This delay has put us in a difficult financial situation. In order to receive our grant from the Governor's Crime Commission for the month of July, we need to come up with at least $2,000 for the required cash match.  A few of you have taken the initiative to donate funds to us during this crisis, thank you!

We really need your help! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to El Vínculo in any amount suitable to your personal budget. You may mail it to: 

Hispanic Liaison
105 E. Second St.
Siler City, NC 27344

Or donate via our secure website at:

There's still time to contact the United Way to let them know what you think about the Hispanic Liaison and their decision to cut off our funding.

Below is the contact information for letters/emails. If you don't mind, please send us a copy to

Board of Directors, United Way of Chatham County
Attn. Eric Andrews, Board President

P.O. Box  1400
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Tel: 919-545-9911
Dina Reynolds, Executive Director
P.O. Box 1066
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Email: [ ]

Tel: 919-542-1110
Cell: 919-548-4002 

Thank you so much for your support, advice and guidance. I'm truly indebted to all of you.

Best regards,
Ilana Dubester
El Vínculo Hispano


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