Is this just Cause-Washing?

Piaras Kelly posted a picture of the front Page of today’s Sunday Independent on Twitter last night. Here it is

This money is, according to the Sunday Independent, his disputed bonus, and apparently:

a close associate of Mr Fingleton, speaking with authority, declared: “Mr Fingleton has never said he would keep the money for his own personal use. This was an option he never once considered. His intention always was to quietly distribute these funds to a number of Irish charities. It is still his preference that this should happen.” (source Sunday Independent)

I like how he wanted to do it quietly, but its now front page news!!

For those who don’t know ” Mr Fingleton resigned as chief executive of the building society in April 2009 after it emerged that he had received the bonus just weeks after the Government introduced the State bank guarantee the previous September. Mr Fingleton promised in March 2009 to voluntarily return the money, even though he was “entitled beyond any doubt” to receive it.” (Irish Times)

But should any charity accept this money?

When I saw the picture on Twitter last night I wondered if this is one of those instances where charities should say “No Thanks”. Something about it just feels wrong.

I am not sure it would be a wise move for any charity to accept this money. The term green washing is used to describe “the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by an organization to create a pro-environmental image  after being embroiled in  an environmental controversy“.

I think this alleged move by the former banker is akin to what I call Cause-Washing.

The temptation to accept his donation is huge, it could create a massive Impact to a charity, I get that (trust me I get it!). But I think all too often charities are used as scape goats. We often hear the phrase “But its for a good cause”. Well thats not good enough. We need to be able to take a position that this isn’t in the best interest of our cause, our long term goals, and most importantly our donors, and turn this donation down.

In the brief discussion on Twitter Richard Dixon made the great point that the donation would have “short term good, but what does it do to long term brand value? You’d forever be “the charity that took 1m from …”

I would love to hear from any charity that is offered the funds and if they have taken the step to turn the donation down. And if they accept it, what made them make that choice?


3 thoughts on “Is this just Cause-Washing?

  1. Some Interesting Comments on Twitter today to this post. Thanks to all, interested to hear what others think. Here is what was said today

    “very thought provoking post”

    “A million would go a long way for a lot of charities. It would be one way to do some good with that money……Excuse my bluntness but I do not think the beneficiaries of such funds give a f*ck……….After spending time in Haiti I would take money from the devil if I could use it to help those people…………….There’s the moral issue and the pratical issue. Let me ask this; where else should the money go?……. I agree that it’s a delicate area. However my question is how else can something good be done with that money

    “Those living on the *knife-edge* dont often have the luxury of high moral ground”

  2. Hi Conor,
    interesting article. I can understand that lots of charities and other non-profit organisations have difficulties deciding where they should draw the line on this, as it’s still quite abstract.

    I recall reading something similar recently, on the Prince’s Trust taking their logo away from the ads of self-tanning brand St Tropez. This was after Kelly Osbourne, who was featured in the ad, said that having a tan made her feel at least 10 lbs slimmer, and implying that the tan gave her self-esteem.

    I’m not sure whether that the Prince’s Trust still receives the $15(!) per sold bottle, but it certainly ads to the discussion on the ethical aspects of receiving, not only donating..


    • It certainly is a complicated area, I hadnt heard about the Princes Trust example. There has been a lot of talk about Susan Komen and KFC this week too, which is kind of related too. Its a tricky area. Thanks for the comment and reading the post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s