Philanthropy Roundtable’s Free to Give campaign elevates the voices of everyday Americans who have dedicated their careers to supporting those in need. Their work is made possible by the freedom of all Americans to give to the causes and communities they care about most.
Philanthropy Roundtable recently sat down with Dale Bannon, national community relations and development secretary for The Salvation Army, to discuss how the organization is uplifting people in need throughout our communities. One program Bannon highlights is Pathway of Hope, which confronts the ongoing problems of poverty in our society. Bannon also cites the organization’s long history as one of the nation’s most trusted charities to emphasize the critical role philanthropic freedom has played in achieving its mission.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: While The Salvation Army is a household name for many people, what is its specific focus and motivation?
Bannon: In 2022, The Salvation Army helped nearly 24 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction and economic hardships through a range of social services including providing food, shelter, emergency relief and rehabilitation programs throughout the United States. This service is not something that just happens by chance; we are an organization that is motivated by the love of God.
Our focus can be summed up in our mission statement: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
The Pathway of Hope program is one way we are helping to confront the ongoing struggles of poverty and homelessness. The program focuses on providing case management to families with children who desire to break the generational cycles of crisis and vulnerability and address the root cause of poverty through education and by empowering them by giving a hand up, rather than a handout in the process of reintegration.
Q: What is the scope of your impact on communities here in America and across the globe?
Bannon: The Salvation Army is unparalleled in its scope and reach as the largest private provider of social services in the United States. We have over 7,000 centers of operation and can reach every ZIP code in the country through our emergency disaster services. A prescient example is our Maui response. We have had a presence in Hawaii since 1894, and in Lahaina since 1896. Due to our long-term presence in the communities we serve, we are often first on the scene and our long-term recovery lasts well after most other charities leave.
This same scope and reach encourages the need to recruit volunteers and donors who have like-minded desires to help those in need. In 2022, more than 1.4 million people volunteered with The Salvation Army nationally, making it possible to serve whole communities that have faced disasters, and meet unexpected needs.
Q: What types of programs does The Salvation Army offer and how have you witnessed them benefit community members?
Bannon: For seven years prior to taking on my current role, I was the chief operating officer in the Greater Washington D.C. area for The Salvation Army. One of the programs offered in that area, Turning Point, focuses on serving mothers with children, many of whom are already facing life’s challenges and disadvantages. While they are in the program, many young women transition out of the foster care system. The services received through the Turning Point program serve as a steppingstone by providing families with opportunities to flourish.
The Pathway of Hope program is also a link to support those who are struggling. In addition to housing and counseling, Pathway of Hope program participants are assigned a case manager, attend financial and educational classes and receive any necessary legal services and job training that set them up for a better future. Success for this type of program is measured one family at a time.
Watch The Salvation Army video below to hear from someone whose life was saved by Pathway of Hope:
Q: Your work is entirely made possible by the generosity of people giving their hard-earned money to you. How would potential attacks on donor privacy hurt your organization and potentially hinder support for your work if donors’ personal information is required to be disclosed to the public?
Bannon: As you know, donor privacy has been a vital aspect of charitable giving for decades. It’s a cornerstone to the American way of life that is enshrined in a person’s First Amendment rights. The right to associate privately and contribute to organizations anonymously is our constitutional legacy that benefits every American.
Q: How can people financially support The Salvation Army?
Bannon: Donors have the freedom to give to us in a multitude of ways. Donations can be made to us from all the traditional stores of wealth, plus bitcoin. In addition to the usual forms of donation: stocks, bonds, funds, IRA rollover, DAF’s, planned gifts, wills and gift annuities, donors can also give their vehicles, their goods to our thrift stores and their time through volunteering opportunities. Along with specifying gifts to general assistance, which is preferred, we also provide the donor with broad freedom in specifying restricted gifts geographically and programmatically.
We believe a donor’s freedom to give in this way increases personal ownership of our impact, right down to the community or program level. We find our most generous donors are very pleased with the investment they make in transformational impact. Our promise to donors to “Do The Most Good” is a commitment to faithfully steward their time, talent and treasure, and we take this commitment very seriously.
Q: Why do you believe protecting the freedom to give, the freedom of all Americans to support the charities and nonprofits they choose, and the right to do so anonymously, is vital to the American charitable sector?
Bannon: It is a long-held belief that individuals have the right to freely support the charitable organizations that are important to them, and part of that right of association is to do so privately.
Privacy is important for a variety of reasons, and it has served organizations like The Salvation Army for decades. I think that the concerns are legitimate that if we gradually remove the right to donor privacy, it will lead to reduced giving and less public support.
View more stories about the importance of philanthropic freedom at FreeToGive.org.