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Adam Weiss

Tiffany Dykstra

Applying Concepts in Morgantown

Morgantown West Virginia is not your average small town. When it
comes to programs aimed at homelessness there is a lack of structure and
funding. In order to have a more formed understanding of these
organizations it is helpful to relate them back to organizational theories and
concepts. I chose to relate two concepts from Organizational
Communication: A Critical Approach by Mumby to two local homeless
organizations. My aim is to identify how the Salvation Army acts as a
communicative structure of control and how Christian Help is a key site of
human identity in the formation of modern society. By doing this we can
better understand the local organizational structure and formation within
Morgantown. We can also focus on what is working positively and relate it
back to eradicating homelessness.
The Salvation Army is one of the largest and well-known philanthropic
organizations in the world. They offer a wide variety of programs, everything
from collecting money outside grocery stores during the holidays to refugee
programs. In Morgantown, activity with the Morgantown Salvation Army can
be seen as far back as 1959. Today, a thrift store, soup kitchen and social
services are available at the Morgantown location. It is a staple of the city
and employs all sorts of individuals. So how does the Salvation Army keep a
unanimous focus on their goals? To find this, we need to look at the
organization as a communicative structure of control. In the textbook Mumby
asks, How do we get organization members to engage in behavior that they
may not spontaneously engage in and that may even be contrary to their
best interests? With college students constantly cycling through the store it
would seem impossible to keep organization. In most organizations, this is
done through compensation. The Salvation Army does this differently; they
do offer compensation to some employees, but reach a larger population
with service hours and health benefits. They also operate like a corporation
when any item like clothes, couches or books that are donated, which pays
six per cent dividends on preferred stock guaranteed by the Salvation Army
Carstens. Basically, this means that the Salvation Army collects money on
donations or sold goods and uses this money to fund volunteers. So, in order
maintain control over all its employees and volunteers it operates like a
private company. However, things like service hours or work-studys can
direct volunteers.
To look at the Salvation Armys control we need to look at the bigger
picture. The most recognized campaign they put on is the Red Kettle
collection. The kettles are seen everywhere, especially during the holidays
and encourage donations. In the last 40 years donations, have significantly
risen and have topped hundreds of millions of dollars. So how does the
Salvation Army collect so much donation money without offering anything in
return? It comes down to the marketing structure of the campaign.
Volunteers are set up outside shops and high traffic areas with a red
donation kettle and a bell. Volunteers ring the bell and promote good spirit to
everyone that walks by. Most volunteers get nothing in return and the only
cost is for the kettle and bell. The secret behind the collection is psychology.
In a study done by the University of California, San Diego, researchers
concluded that slight details like communication made a huge difference in
the number of donations. We find that verbal requests increase the number
of givers by 55% and total donations by 69%. Adding a second solicitor has
similarly large impacts on givers and total donations. Shoppers do little to
avoid the bell ringers who do not verbally engage or make eye contact with
them, but we estimate that the simple act of looking at shoppers and saying
please give today causes between 25.2% and 32.6% of
would-be entrants to avoid the ask. Just by structuring
communication a certain way can elicit more of a
response. The underlying factor is deep within peoples
feeling towards one another. The experiment concludes,
We argue that the underlying psychological mechanism
is empathy. Stimulating someones empathy through a
direct and vocal ask can create an impulse to be generous
that is difficult for humans to resist. While our experiment
does not test this theory directly, it does guide the
discussion of altruism toward the act of asking itself as
the linchpin to understanding the costs and benefits of
the giving interaction. The organization control is not so
much based in compensation, as it is empathy. That
unusual feeling you get when walking by a kettle is completely intended and
is why it is such a successful campaign. Another part of the kettle campaigns
success is modernization of donations. Once credit cards were added to the
campaign there was a huge increase in donations. Finding new ways to
donate creates a huge increase in results.
So how can we relate what is done on a larger scale back to
Morgantown? The focus needs to be on empathy. Many homeless on high
street utilize this same empathy strategy to panhandle. This method
however has not proven effective since a lot of that panhandled money is
used for drugs and alcohol. I believe we could use this empathy to educate
the public about the homeless problem. This starts with marketing. Most
information on homelessness in Morgantown is on the CCOH website and in
community meetings. I believe this is not enough to educate Morgantown.
We must look at the best way to reach the local Morgantown population.
Looking at Morgantown there is a lack of technology use. Speaking first hand
as an Applications Administrator for the university, teachers and students
from the Morgantown area have a more difficult time understanding the
technology. Awareness through the CCOH website does not make enough of
an impact. I believe the homeless problem should be communicated through
simple marketing like billboards or radio in order to reach more of the local
population. If we can make Morgantown residents feel a little more empathy
for the homeless, we will see more of an effort to solve the problem.
Christian Help is local Morgantown organization that aims to assist
homeless and impoverished individuals while creating a greater awareness
among Christians. It was created the same year as the
PRT and has served the local public through programs
like the free store, food pantry, and career closet. What
makes Christian help different than any other religious
organization is that it has a strong sense of identity for
those who work for and use their services. Having an
identity through an organization is a concept
mentioned by Mumby, which says, Organizations are
not just places where people work but, more
fundamentally, function as important sites for the
creation of human identity. Christian help is a very good example of this.
The organization focuses more on the long-term relationship between the
staff and those in need. One of the best ways this is achieved is through its
Jobs For Life program. The program offers personal development classes for
those having difficulty finding employment. The staff works to provide
education and aims to give students a clear career path. This may include
getting over personal roadblocks or gaining confidence. This isnt simply a
class; it is a mentoring relationship between the staff and student. Both help
to gain identity and perspective from one another. When I volunteered in the
food pantry I was able to talk to some of the staff that put on these
programs. What I found was a profound connection between staff and
belonging. The staff that was more passionate about the program identified
much more with the Christian help organization. When comparing this back
to my time at Salvation Army I saw a big difference between qualities of
work. The Salvation Army constantly cycled people through and less passion
was put into the work. Christian help however maintains its employees for
longer and places an emphasis on caring work.
What makes Christian Help a successful organization? At first look,
there is an extremely strong emphasis on Christianity. Christians are more
likely to work harder for a Christian organization. The clear majority of the
religious population in Morgantown is Christian so a larger market is reached
when in need of volunteers. What really makes the organization special is
how it is structured. A full time employee overlooks every program and has a
specific method of dealing with volunteers. This structure gives its visitors
better peace of mind and allows operations to run more smoothly. It is an
organization that knows how to bring the community together.
If humans gain identity in the workplace, it is necessary for the
homeless to experience the same thing. When you are homeless you do not
have a job except to find food and shelters, many of the Morgantown
programs are set up to do just that. Give a man a fish and hell fish for a day,
teach a man to fish and hell eat for a lifetime. Instead of putting the focus
on basics, there should be a stronger focus on jobs. At least being employed
gives a better sense of self-identity. Christian help offers job training and
career development support but remain as one of the few focused on
employment. Other cities with homeless problems have implemented similar
plans like Fort Collins Colorado where a grant was specifically targeted to
employing the homeless. Morris Roth, CEO of Pikes Peak Behavioral Health
Group had this to say "In addition to providing traditional mental health care,
we'll help these individuals get a GED, train them for jobs in businesses like
construction or catering and prepare them for job interviews, We want them
under a roof - but we also want them to have skills and confidence. This
perfectly sums up a positive direction that Morgantown could take.
Confidence and self-worth are gained from a job, which is crucial to
eradicating homelessness.
Morgantown offers several solutions to the homeless problem but some
work more efficiently than others. When looking at a larger organization like
the Salvation Army it is clear that their biggest strength is their campaign.
The organization has the ability to extract what they want out of the public in
return for empathy. Empathy is a great way to reach the public and the
homeless problem in Morgantown could gain more attention by using
empathy. When looking at organizations that are communicative structures
of control we see problems in its operations if there is a lot of change. The
Morgantown Salvation Army lacked stability due to constant cycling of
employees. Christian Help did a much better job addressing this problem;
they place an emphasis on better relationships with customers. By creating
deeper relationships the homeless have a better sense of self-identity. The
programs that affected employment appear to have a positive impact on the
homeless self-confidence. This leads to more jobs and less panhandling. The
psychological tolls the homeless endure are hard to understand from an
average persons perspective. Extreme loneliness drives the most sane
people to unhealthy life choices as explained by AMI ROKACH from The
Institute for the Study and Treatment of Psychosocial Stress, Loneliness is a
painful, unwelcomed experience that has consequences detrimental to one's
emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being (Ernst & Cacioppo, 1999;
McWhirter, 1990). Loneliness has been linked to maladies such as
depression, hostility, alcoholism, poor self-concept, and psychosomatic
illnesses (McWhirter). Recent studies suggest that a large proportion of the
population feels lonely frequently (Rokach & Brock, 1997). Loneliness has
been linked to anxiety, interpersonal hostility (Hansson, Jones, Carpenter, &
Remondet, 1986), an increased vulnerability to health problems (Jones, Rose,
& Russell, 1990), and even suicide (Cutrona, 1982; Medora & Woodward,
1986). Homelessness is like a drug addiction, the more of it you consume,
the more problems it causes. The focus needs to be on getting the homeless
jobs and other resources they can grow from instead of just maintain.

Andreoni, James, Justin M. Rao, and Hannah Trachtman. Avoiding the Ask: A
Field Experiment on Altruism, Empathy, and Charitable Giving. Cambridge,
Mass: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011. Internet resource.

Carstens, C.C. "The Salvation Army-a Criticism." The Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science. 30.3 (1907): 117-128. Print.

Gillentine, Amy. "Grant to Help Colorado Springs Homeless Get Jobs,

Homes." The Colorado Springs Business Journal (pre June 2, 2012). (2009).

Mumby, Dennis K. Organizational communication: a critical approach. Los

Angeles: SAGE, 2016. Print.

Rokach, Ami. "The Causes of Loneliness in Homeless Youth." Journal of

Psychology, vol. 139, no. 5, Sept. 2005, pp. 469-480