Saturday, December 21, 2013

Some Myths About Charitable Giving at End of Year

The Myth of the Local Economy (or “Brother, can you spare a dime?”)

 Been begging lately?  I have.

When I seek donations and contributions for a small, local animal shelter, I don’t call it begging, but that’s what is it.  Hard work, begging – especially in this cold and especially in this economy.  Some shelters are experiencing up to 400% increases in the amount of dogs and cats left abandoned in foreclosed homes or given up by owners who have lost their jobs. Sometimes their poor pets are just tied to the front door when we get there.  

But what really makes finding money for food and medical treatment for animals such an uphill climb is the changed nature of the economic landscape in which we all now live.

We used to be able to depend on the many local shops and businesses to provide a few dollars or an item suitable for a fund raising auction or raffle.  Not so anymore.  Not so local anymore.  What used to be trickle down from our local mom-and-pop shops is no more.  Instead, it is decidedly trickle up.

“Hi, I’m from Peoples Animal Welfare in Tinley Park.  We’re trying to solicit assistance in any way from local businesses like yours to help us pay for the thousands of abandoned animals we vet, feed, care for, and adopt out each year. Would your business, here in our town, be willing to help?”

“Sorry, you’ll have to go through corporate for that.”

Corporate will be in Idaho, Minneapolis, California, or somewhere else usually far away.  And corporate, even in a closer place like Chicago, usually has a program of giving on a national not local scale.  It’s part of the boardroom budgeting process; FY15 is already in the hopper.  And, honestly, the last target (pun intended) for their obligatory corporate giving would be a small, local shelter.  You see, giving on a national or international scale provides advertising, which is of value to corporations – it is revenue generating.  Even a thank you from a charity on a corporate level (like United Way) can assure a full page of company icons and solicitous appreciation in a newspaper like our Chicago Tribune.  In addition, in the lower corner it reads “With thanks to our media partner Chicago Tribune.”  See, more feel-good advertising.

CEO Greg Marcus
Of course you won’t believe who makes this full page spread in the enormous “thank you” and collection of icons in pages of the Tribune.  Here’s a partial list of the 24 corporate Samaritans, and I’ll just highlight the companies with membership in the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago:  Northern Trust, Illinois Tool Works, AT&T, UPS, Deloitte, Exelon, Bank of America, Ernst & Young, Illinois Blue Cross and Blue Shield, KPMG, PWC, William Blair, Wells Fargo, GE, Nicor, Allstate, Kelloggs, Sargent and Lundy, HSBC, Harris Associates, Pepsico, Aon, Walgreens, and US Bank.  They all appreciate the spirit of giving on the mammoth scale to national and international charities because beyond the good citizen-type appearance…well, it pays back.  Helping people is profitable (except when they desire to bargain collectively).  Go to a movie this holiday season, and you'll see CEO Gregory Marcus pushing United Way as well as popcorn.  

United Way CEO Gallagher
And this corporate giving and getting is a two way street, you know.  The CEO of United Way is Brian Gallagher, whose 2010 reported annual salary is $375,000, “plus so many numerous expense benefits it’s hard to keep track as to what it is all worth, including a fully paid lifetime membership to 2 golf courses (1 in Canada and 1 in the USA), 2 luxury vehicles, a yacht club membership, 3 major company gold credit cards for his personal expenses…and so on.  This equates to about $0.51 per dollar of income [going] to charity causes”  (

In the case of corporations, the amount of bang for the buck isn’t nearly as important as the public fawning and media attention that comes with it.  And let’s not forget the connections or the possibility of playing golf today, let’s say in Canada? “Hello, Brian, maybe I can fly up?”

Abandoned animals?  How about abandoned local communities?   

Gotta go untie some dogs.


1 comment:

  1. I am a retired special education teacher and have been a political activist all my life. I am a huge fan of Diane Ravitch. I have three highly educated children and their three highly educated spouses. I have seven highly educated grandchildren and one severely disabled grandchild, who requires help from many different therapists and teachers devoted to those with special needs. What do I mean when I say highly educated? They went to wonderful public schools where the majority of teachers were devoted to children, not to the almight dollars. Were there a few bad apples? very few, but I think I can name quite a few "bad apple" bankers, politicians, and corporate CEO's who are receivng great sums of corporate welfare with much of their salaries made at the expense of jobs shifted overseas and the refusal to pay their fair share of taxes to the country that came them the opportunity to make the sums of money they don't deserve. Back to why and how my children and grandchildren are/were highly educated? We were not wealthy by a long shot, but we could send them for art, dancing, library programs, sports, theater--, their education was not rote learning in which they studied only to pass a test. They were taught history, civics, great books, music, band, creative thinking and so much more, We were able to send them to good universities because the costs of tuitions were in line with middle class and upper middle class incomes. How are my grandkids going to go to college; how are they going to pay for tuition and compounding interest, particularly when jobs have been moved overseas.

    To me, it's all part of the same thing, whether it's at the state or federal level: groups like Fix the Debt, ALEC, Concord Coalition, Americans for Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, Club for Growth,Kochs, Murdoch, an activist Supreme Court, Third Way, the Trans Pacific Corporation, foundations for charter schools, on and on, it's the goal of the right-wing, libertarians and many corporatist Democrats to get rid of all collective bargaining, pay workers next to nothing, privatize schools,privatize prisons, rewrite history or eliminate it altogether by getting rid of liberal arts and thinking skills, globalize everything so they can keep moving their factories to the cheapest labor and make the greatest profit that they can keep for themselves and never use to enhance society. I could write pages upon pages about this abuse. But it really strikes me as interesting that they complain about our pensions that they destroyed, but will never reform taxes so the big money pays their fair share. And here's the kicker for me: they say there's no money for pensions or public schools, but they want all that "no money" to turn our pensions into 401Ks and the public schools into charters--all with the tax dollars they say we don't have. Just look at Social Security/Medicare--same think--they want to cut it even though it's not part of the deficit instead of raising the income people pay into it. The only real problem we have is two-fold: our jobs have been shipped overseas and the ones that are here, people don't make enough to pay decent taxes--and the wealthy hire lobbyists and lawyers to write laws allowing them to hide their income from taxes. Simple as that. Everything we're losing is a result of the privatizers scamming us--that includes our politicians as well. IT'S A SCAM AND I WISH THE AMERICAN PUBLIC WOULD WAK UP.