LifeLine, a Christian-based telephone company that donates 10 percent of its customers' domestic long-distance bills to nonprofit organizations, has changed its check-distribution policy. Some of its members are unhappy with the new arrangement.

Since its inception in 1990, LifeLine had mailed monthly donation checks. But in July, the company announced a plan to send checks semiannually to subscribers earning under $25 a month and quarterly payments to those earning between $25 and $500. Subscribers receiving under $25 a month make up about half the participants, most of whom are drawn by LifeLine's biblical values commitment (CT, Oct. 4, 1994, p. 69).

Nonprofits earning more than $500 a month in LifeLine donations will continue receiving monthly payments.

Jeff Cato, LifeLine's director of marketing and sales, says the move reduces the heavy administrative costs associated with mailing 35,000 checks each month. "It wasn't very cost-efficient," Cato says. "We didn't think we were good stewards. We've even sent checks for 50 cents."

LifeLine's decision has its critics. Ron Corber heads Town and Country, a Christian performing arts center in Norwalk, Ohio, and has been a LifeLine subscriber since 1995. "They have not kept their word," he complains.

Corber, whose monthly check from LifeLine averages $31, believes a shift to quarterly and semiannual payments will negatively affect smaller ministries. "It's not a lot of money," he says, "but it's still money we're counting on."

Cato acknowledges LifeLine has received complaints but rejects the notion the company has broken its promise. "It's not that the 10 percent isn't going to the ministry," he says. "It's just not as frequent." Headquartered in Oklahoma City, LifeLine provides phone service to 700,000 customers nationwide and has approximately 35,000 subscribing ministries. In early 1999, Cato says, the company plans to go public.

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