United Way: Taking a Public Stance on a Controversial Issue
(7 pages of text)
In June 2012, the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington chapter of the United Way had the opportunity to present its views at an upcoming public forum on a proposal to build a casino in Kingston, Ontario. The possibility of a casino in Kingston was a controversial and emotional topic; it was supported by influential business and government leaders but also had many detractors. Pro-casino advocates said a casino would create jobs, spur local business, and contribute millions of tax dollars to municipal coffers. Opponents contended that the social costs of a casino would outweigh the touted economic benefits and that a casino would lead to an increase in problem gambling. City councillors were evenly divided on the issue. For the United Way, many of the proponents and opponents alike were active and financially supportive of the organization. The United Way was asked to take a stand, and yet was hesitant to enter into a political debate. Was it possible for the United Way to uphold its values without alienating pro-business donors and local government officials?
This case is suitable for courses on social enterprise (non-profit management) but can also be used in core strategy courses on business strategy or corporate strategy, at either the graduate or undergraduate level. After completion of this case, students should be able to:
- Debate two sides of a difficult strategic decision.
- Determine if taking a public stand on a social issue is appropriate for a non-profit organization.
- Raise compelling arguments through debate to make recommendations for action to a board of directors.
Social Advocacy Organizations
Canada, Large, 2012
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