Thursday, February 08, 2007

For What Shall It Profit a Man?

I was talking to my friend Will Briarwood the other day. Will has a good job, with a small company, and he has told me that the owners are good, generous people. But…

“I don’t like corporate charity.”

You mean, like, government taxbreaks and subsidies for big corporations?

“No, I mean, like, charity that is sponsored by my employer.”

Ahh. That can be a tricky path.

“No kidding. Our company has gotten involved with Nothing But Nets.”

I’m not sure I know that one.

“They purchase anti-malaria bed nets for people in Africa.”

Sounds like a good program.

“I have no reason to believe it’s not a good cause.”


“So you have your list of charities.”

I do.

“And I donate to the charities of my choice. I feel like, if I donate to Nothing But Nets, then I should be able to knock on the bosses’ doors, and ask them for money for one of my charities.”

Doesn’t your company have a matching gift program?

“No, probably because it’s too small a company.”

So go knock on the bosses’ doors.

“I don’t think so. As I’ve said, they’re good people, but I just don’t like the idea of charity in the workplace.”

You’ve mentioned your co-worker with that foundation…

Lunch for Life. They raise funds for the Children’s Neuroblastoma Foundation. I haven’t donated to them, either.”

May I ask why not?

“I don’t know enough about them, for one. I don’t donate to charities that might fund animal experiments.”

Understandable. It can be a tough decision – one wants to be careful about where one donates, but not be too cynical. I had someone tell me that he wasn’t sure about donating to Doctors Without Borders, but then he heard that they won the Nobel Peace Prize, but then he remembered that Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger had also won Nobels…

“Yeah – getting back to Nothing But Nets, on the one hand, they work with The UN Foundation.”

Ted Turner’s money.

“Yeah. On the other hand, they get matching donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

That’s a problem?

“Maybe. Did you see the series in the Los Angeles Times?”

I did see that. They reported on how the Gates Foundation invests in companies that contribute to the problems that they’re trying to solve. They are the biggest charitable foundation in the world, so you might have a hard time avoiding charities that get money from them. What are you going to do?

“I’m going to keep donating to my charities. If and when I feel like I have enough information on a charity, I may add it to my list.”

You know, you could probably get some points with the bosses by supporting their charity of choice. And your co-worker would appreciate your donation.

“You know I’m not much on religion, and this might not be entirely relevant, but check Mark 8:36.”

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