Not All Money is Good Money

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a potential client to consider helping them revise their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy. It was an offer that I had to think about, long and hard. On the one hand, I just wrapped up a major project and had the capacity. The work was a year-long project that would challenge me to think hard and strategically. (In other words, my favorite type of challenge!) It involved working with other partners, and I thrive in an environment where there are multiple parties working towards a common goal. There was no doubt in my mind that the project would be exciting in every sense of the word.

And still – I waffled. The company didn’t have a good reputation. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be associated with it. And yet, I still wanted to see if I could step up to the challenge of making them be a better corporate partner. Could I change their evil ways? Did I want to?

Ultimately, after much internal debate, I decided to turn down the project. It was both disappointing and a relief. But in the end, I didn’t want myself or my business to be associated with this company. And thus, when I recently read, “When Corporate Philanthropy Makes the Recipient Look Bad,” I know I had made the right decision.

Nonprofits are faced with these types of decisions all the time. It’s not easy to turn down a boatload of money that is being dangled in front of you, just for recognizing the donor. And yet, as the article points out, “The reputation of specific corporate donors can further aggravate the perception of organizations that form liaisons with them.” It kind of reminds me of the motto of one of my ex-boyfriends: “What you allow, you encourage.” In the work of philanthropy, what money you accept is a company and product/service you support.”

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