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The Koch Dilemma

How important is your organization’s mission…really?  Does it drive the decisions you make?  Does it drive decisions about whether or not to accept donations from donors who work against your mission?

It is a true test of mission resolve to say “no thank you” to a donor offering a large gift, when that donor’s livelihood is based on work antithetical to your mission, or who spends orders of magnitude more money fighting the very reason your organization exists.  There is no better example than the Koch Brothers and the use of their fortune for philanthropy and politics.

Through Koch Industries, various Koch controlled foundations and personal giving, the family has given hundreds of millions of dollars to more than 250 colleges and universities, cultural institutions, medical research, environmental causes and many more.

The Koch empire has also spent what appears to be considerably more money, annually, trying to get political candidates elected whose positions are in direct opposition to the missions of the nonprofit organizations they support.The Koch’s are the primary supporters of Tea Party and ulta- conservative candidates, who have managed to become an influential enough minority in Congress to effectively stall, gut or kill many legislative initiatives that would support the missions of organizations they support philanthropically. For example:

$25 million to Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to eliminate genitourinary malignancies and $100 million for cancer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The NIH budget in 2010 was $31.2 billion, in 2013 it was $29.3 billion…a 6% decline, reversing uninterrupted budget increases since its inception.

$100 million for a new ambulatory care center at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

There have been epic efforts by Republicans to stop and then to repeal the Affordable Care Act which […]

Will Legacy Naming Recognition Become Too Fraught for Organizations?

The mess MIT and Harvard found themselves in by accepting gifts from Jeffery Epstein is a bellwether for things to come.  These institutions had the audacity to accept a lot of money from Epstein, with the intent to remain anonymous, and despite this slight-of-hand, the rolling heads hitting the fan could be heard around the world.

Hate-Speech “Sells” in Today’s Politics – Will it Work in Nonprofit Fundraising?

This is a difficult topic to address, but one that has fascinated me for a while.  We are witnessing the phenomenon, last seen in the late 1960s during the George Wallace presidential campaign, of robust political fundraising on a messages of hate, divisiveness and demonizing of an entire classes of people.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being contributed during the primary season and nearly a billion will be spent during the presidential race for each political party.  Will a strategy of hate, divisiveness and demonization work in nonprofit fundraising?

I ask this question while hoping I already know the answer. But it is hard to deny that there are plenty of exclusionary and hate-driven nonprofits, on both sides of the political spectrum, that thrive and raise funds for their cause.
Tax Exemption
As an example, the federal government has allowed four groups at the forefront of the white nationalist movement to register as charities and raise more than $7.8 million in tax-deductible donations over the past decade, according to an Associated Press review. With benevolent-sounding names such as the National Policy Institute and New Century Foundation, the tax-exempt groups present themselves as educational organizations and use donors’ money to pay for websites, books and conferences to further their ideology. The money also compensates the leaders of the four groups.

New Century Foundation head Jared Taylor said his group raises money for the benefit of the “white race,” a mission taxpayers are indirectly supporting with the group’s status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The IRS recognized the Charles Martel Society, the National Policy Institute and VDare Foundation as charities more than a decade ago. The Connecticut-based VDare Foundation raised nearly $4.8 million between 2007 and 2015.

Suffice it to say that […]

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