Money is a tool, a means to an end.

March 11, 2022

Today’s post may seem like heresy to some. The goal of fundraising is not to raise money in and of itself. The goal of fundraising is to fix something. Because money is simply a tool. Nobody buys a hammer for fun; they buy one to build something. Similarly, nobody donates money for an MRI machine — they are hoping to cure cancer with that investment (the outcome). Similarly, nobody cares about a hammer. Instead, they care about the two pieces of wood it fastened together (an outcome).

Along those same lines of thinking is the notion of good money versus bad money. In reality, there is no such thing as good money versus bad money. It is simply a tool to accomplish much greater things. I have read about many charities refusing donations from “ne’er-do-well type people” (perhaps those that were active in the Freedom Protest or someone who may have had a past indiscretion. My head lowers in disbelief.

I have learned that March is National Kidney Month. Perhaps someone from the group mentioned above has a family member suffering from kidney disease. They would like to donate. Are we seriously saying that Kidney charities should refuse those individuals’ donations? Are we so morally superior that we can refuse a “no strings attached” donation?

In our crazy world (where we are moving from one crisis to the next), we need to find common ground. Yet, far too often, it is our differences that keep us at each other’s proverbial throats. I would surmise that if you were to look at the top donors, there might be actions in their lives that might not be beyond reproach. Steve Jobs essentially ripped off the idea of his Mac operating system from Xerox. The Ford Foundation (the 10th largest foundation globally with assets over $13.7B) was started by Henry Ford, a colossal anti-Semite, and racist.

But both Apple’s Community Investment Program and the Ford Foundation have given back to society and have garnered public accolades. They are like a tool in a societal machine working to do better. To dismiss out-of-hand the works that these organizations do is both short-sighted as well as wrong. But both Apple and Ford were built with assets from less-than-totally-honorable people.

The Notion of Change

I think that sometimes we, as a society, hold people and organizations up to an unattainable pedestal. Quite often, people (and organizations or corporations) change their ideas and philosophies. I can certainly attest to the fact that I hold many different attitudes about life today than I did 25 years ago. And while I certainly believed in my ideas at the time, I have changed my mind. And the last time I checked, I was free to do so.

Perhaps we should afford the same opportunity of change to everyone (individuals or organizations). If we come at it from a viewpoint that people generally want to “do good” instead of a position of distrust, we would likely be far better off.

The current President of the Ford Foundation is Darren Walker, a black man who has propelled the Ford Foundation in its mandate, especially during the COVID crisis. He probably wouldn’t have been Henry Ford’s first pick to run the Foundation.

Is it the role of charities to be the policing department of morality? Furthermore, do the actions of the founders condemn the future for eternity? Henry Ford has been dead for 75 years. The Ford Foundation acts much differently today than 75 years ago.

While I may not have all the answers, the easiest solution is to refuse a donation. I am just not convinced that it is the best answer.

Until next week.