Saturday, November 28, 2015

End-Of-The Year Charitable Giving & the Loss of the Local Economy

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.

The Middle Class is struggling to survive after the Great Recession. 

And if you are non-white, it’s been even more difficult.  Hispanics have lost nearly 37% of purchasing power as contrasted to whites since 1980. 
And African-American families?  They’ve lost nearly 200% of purchasing power in wages (from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability). 

There’s not much disposable income around – especially to help the voiceless & homeless. 

The business geography has changed too. 

“Too big to fail” an economic disaster also means many were too small to survive. 

At the shelter, 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 has become decidedly trickle up.

“Hi, I’m from Peoples Animal Welfare Society 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; FY16 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 will read “With thanks to our media partner Chicago Tribune.”  See, more feel-good advertising.

Gregory 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 fro last holiday season, and I’ll just highlight the companies with membership in the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of ChicagoNorthern 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.  

Brian 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 this summer, let’s say in Canada? “Hello, Brian, maybe I can fly up on your company plane?”

Abandoned animals?  How about abandoned local communities?   

Hey, have a great holiday season.  Gotta go untie some dogs.

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