We're suffering from an epidemic of corporate philanthropy.
Businesses, especially large corporations, are bragging loud and long about their so-called good deeds, whether political or environmental or social or anything else trending in pop culture.
I am not impressed.
If you are a local business (even if that business is a franchise of something larger), and you host fundraisers for your local high school crew team or church youth group, or if you offer goods and services to first responders and disaster victims in your community, go for it. I'm likely to think better of you. That's neighborliness.
But anything on a grander scale than that, no. When you donate funds to support political parties, or activist organizations, or the arts, or even the most benign of charities, whose money are you really spending? Unless you have no shareholders, no employees, no board of directors, and no customers, there's a case to be made that you are making them all unwitting—and in many cases unwilling—donors to your own favorite causes.
Here's what I suggest.
Do you have some extra profit you want to do good with? Consider any or all of the following:
- Give all your employees an across-the-board raise. Or a one-time bonus, if you're afraid the profits won't be sustainable.
- Increase the dividends you pay your stockholders.
- Decrease your prices.
In this way you would help your workers/investors/customers—those who make your profit possible—in a tangible way, while at the same time increasing their ability to support the causes they believe in, instead of the pet causes of a small group of elite corporate decision-makers.
It's your choice. If you want to use company profits to support a particular presidential candidate, or to buy the CEO a new yacht, that's your business. Just don't expect the world to believe that your actions are virtuous.
Is there anything more hypocritical than being generous with other people's money?