Weare: how “Giving Tuesday” flopped in US territories

Neil Weare, President of Equally American, a nonpartisan public interest organization that works to advance equality and voting rights in U.S. territories. (file photo)

Guam – Giving Tuesday hasn’t worked out so well in the US Territories, at least not for one nonprofit organization that had hoped to raise matchable funds through online donations in places like Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands.

Leading up to this Giving Tuesday, hopes were dashed at the nonprofit organization Equally American when prospective donors living in US territories learned they could not use Facebook’s online fundraising tools to donate their money to EA’s cause of asserting American Citizenship rights wherever US citizens choose to live.

Former USVI Bar Association President Russell Pate posted a video of his failed attempt to donate money to Equally American via Facebook.

“Hello from the United States Virgin Islands,” he said. “I’m Russell Pate on Saint Thomas. It’s November 24th and about 82 degrees outside. We’re in my office, about to donate to Equally American fighting for equal rights for American citizens in the United States and its territories.

“I’m about to donate here, so I’m going to donate and here it says, ‘Facebook fundraising is currently only available in certain countries. Your location does not support donations at this time.’

“Interestingly enough, the US Virgin Islands is not another country. It’s called the US Virgin Islands because it is the United States. Facebook is telling me that I am not in the United States, yet I am in the United States,” Pate said. PNC tried punching Facebook’s donate button on Guam, too, but got the same message.

As an Equally American supporter, Pate said this is exactly the kind of discrimination that Equally American is fighting against, the notion that certain American citizens living in United States territories are somehow not really American citizens.

“It’s pervasive discrimination, and it starts in the government and then actually goes down in the private sector,” Pate said in his online video.

“Very unfortunate that they treat us as second-class citizens. Happened for nearly a hundred years! And we’re hoping to change that through education to other people in the American public who understand that every American citizen should have the same rights and same opportunities to participate in their government, in voting and in running for office.”

Equally American President and Founder Neil Weare praised Facebook but said it could do better by leveling the playing field for all Americans.

“Facebook has been an important part of our advocacy toolkit, making it easier to build community across five territories and a diaspora that extends throughout the 50 states. But the inability of our supporters in U.S. territories to use Facebook’s contribution tools really limits what we’re able to achieve using its platform,” Weare said.

A former Guam resident and Team Guam Olympian, Weare is also is a civil rights attorney, who said it’s a shame that those deemed second class citizens in US Guam and other American territories find themselves shut out of equal opportunity online.

“Facebook’s entry into nonprofit fundraising has a lot to like, with zero fees and a $7 million matching program with Paypal on #GivingTuesday,” Weare said. “But it’s hard to miss the irony of how Facebook’s unequal treatment of Americans in U.S. territories makes it harder for our nonprofit to bring an end to unequal treatment in U.S. territories.”            

Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo says Facebook’s exclusion of US territories from its fundraising match program “perpetuates misconceptions and injustices that have long had a negative impact on our communities.”

A news release from Equally American stated that Facebook Support responded to the nonprofit’s concern by sympathizing with its frustrations and saying it’s working with partners to expand its digital tools to other areas as quickly as possible.