The Coming Drought In Corporate Charitable Giving

Corporate charitable donations are about to get a whole lot leaner, at best – and simply jettisoned all together, at worst.

Most believe charity should be done in private, out of the eye of anyone else. i.e., It’s a personal act involving you and the charity involved. No one needs to know, for you’re not looking for any praise. The act is its own reward.

Then of course there’s the public type. This one takes many forms such as the naming of a building for a large donation. (Think, hospital wing et al.)

Then there is the corporate variety. This is where either a small business or global enterprise will donate to certain events or organizations within ones community in some form of fund drive, or other such events. (Think, cancer runs, or other awareness type events.)

Then there is the true, large business centric styled donations. This is where companies make donations to a specific charity or organization they feel is aligned with either its own values, or its customers.

Usually these larger and repeating types are quintessential to many of these charities to survive. These are the funds “counted on” as to make sure the rent gets paid, phones are kept on, and even pay the staff. All this so the charity itself has the tools to go forth and further raise the funds it needs to be effective for its chosen endeavor.

You as customer may, or may not, agree with their choices as to which they support or don’t. But in most cases, the majority of patrons don’t have an opinion either way and see it only as the place of business that they’re shopping with is doing something charitable.

The bulk or vast majority of patrons to most businesses fall into this category. The only reason why they may know is that the company itself may tout it in their advertising, or other such avenues. Yet, if they didn’t, most, if not the vast majority, wouldn’t bat-an-eyelash.

Some of these same companies contribute to certain organizations because they feel it may mean something deeper to a customer. Or, they want to be seen in the community as giving to something that the entire community seems to support. (Think, “rights” type of groups, whether its marriage, immigration, speech, constitutional, et cetera,)

Many of these donations, again, whether one agrees with them or not, are made from a business type decision process. In other words the reason for the giving is, “Is it good for business?” The companies themselves, much like many of their patrons may, or may not, have a real connection for giving other than what it may, or may not do, insofar as what it may, or may not do, for business. Yes, a lot of may, or may not’s. But that’s just business.

To some this may sound cold, but then again, we’re talking about business – not about the charity itself per se.

And it is here, in this larger corporate context, where I believe the most change will come forth. And the reason for it:

The mass “die-in” staged to protest the NRA® at a Publix™ grocery store.

Again, the issue here is not whether you agree, or disagree, with either the company, the protesters, or their donation recipients. No, the real issue is that in today’s world of social-media, where instant protest mobs can be created almost on a whim, regardless for validity of argument, businesses are being shown via these very protests that the best thing to do – is to do nothing.

Whatever “goodwill” has been generated via donations from Publix will now be held up against what possible damage may be had to either brand, customer loyalties, business disruptions, negative press, or lost sales. Hint: the protest at Publix, even though small in size, will now be used as a gargantuan obstacle to be argued against for continuing any donations – to any cause.

The only safety a company now has, at the least, to shelter itself from any public discourse – is to divorce itself from any and all public donations.

Think this is an over statement? Fair point, so let’s use the initial, knee-jerk reaction of Publix, which was to immediately suspend – all political donations – as they rethink their contribution disbursements.

Think the above is only a one-off, or isolated incident? Again, fair point, so let’s see if it’s happening in other areas such as the “hospital wing” variety, shall we? To wit:

New York Times™: “California Today: San Francisco Nurses Protest the Zuckerberg Hospital’s Name”

“After a record-setting $75 million gift from Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, the pediatrician Priscilla Chan, in 2015, the general hospital was renamed Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

Now, in light of Facebook’s recent controversies, a group of nurses are saying the name makes patients wary. And they have renewed their efforts to have it removed.

“We are in charge of keeping our most vulnerable people private and protected,” said Heather Ali, who works at the hospital in nursing administration. “Now people wonder, ‘How much is my privacy protected at a hospital with that name on it?’”

Megan Brizzolara, a nurse at the hospital, said the Zuckerberg name “scares” patients.”

It’s interesting the above isn’t via outside forces, but rather, from the hospital’s own staff. Yet, the results are the same: Bad press, where Mr. Zuckerberg may get pressured in the future (if not already) for some way to remove his name from prominence and make it more “private.” You know, “to help ease tensions of any perceived negativity, for the good of the community and hospital.”

I would bet dollars-to-doughnuts the above, in one fashion or another, is already being discussed and contemplated by that hospital’s board. I’ll would also conclude Mark himself is already thinking about it, as in, “If they dare ask me to change it, I’m just going to demand my money back as in I also changed my mind.”

And don’t believe for a moment this isn’t being watched very, very, very (did I say very?) carefully via the people with that type of wealth to donate. Doing donations of this type before they pass away, rather than after, may just go out-of-vogue, and back to the way it used to be conducted. e.g., posthumous.

Here’s what I believe you’re going to start to hear a lot if you’re one whose job it is to fund raise via the corporate or mega donor variety.

First, for the corporate type: “In light of the protests that took place at Publix the Board has decided we’re no longer making any donations to any outside charities for the time being. In today’s environment the risks are far too high, regardless of the cause. And, the only way we can do this fairly: is to say no too all at this present time. But, check back with us next year, maybe things will have changed.

Second, from the mega-door variety: “In light of what took place with the Zuckerberg’s donation to S.F. General Hospital we’re wondering if giving before one passes, that has been in-vogue these last few years, hasn’t now returned to being gauche, as it used to be. We were never really fans of this style of charity and have decided it would be in our best interests to follow this more classic-style of donation, which we have always preferred in the first place. Thanks for your kind offer, but at this moment, I’m sorry, we still have away to go before that time comes. Ta-ta.”

Or said differently: When the return calls or donation checks no longer ring, or are found in the in-box…

You’ll know it’s them.

© 2018 Mark St.Cyr