Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Welcome to the Giving Thought Podcast, a bi-weekly exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society from the Charities Aid Foundation’s in-house think-tank, Giving Thought.

In each episode your host Rhodri Davies (formerly with co-host Adam Pickering) explores a big issue, theme or trend and analyses what it means for philanthropy and civil society around the world.

Be sure to check the show notes for each podcast and find blogs, reports and videos from Giving Thought and do get in touch if you have questions or suggestions at givingthought@cafonline.org

Finally, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or your podcast provider of choice.

Sep 17, 2019

In episode 56 we take a deep dive into the issue of "tainted donations". Is some money "bad", and if so can it ever be turned to good uses through philanthropy? Including:

  • Recent versions of the tainted donation issue: Epstein & MIT Media Lab, the Sacklers, The Presidents Club
  • The history of tainted donations: mediaeval prostitutes, Rockefeller & Carnegie in the firing line, George Cadbury, George Bernard Shaw, William Booth
  • What do we mean by tainted? In cases where there is no clear illegality, how do we navigate much more contested ethical grey areas?
  • Do we need to differentiate between criticisms of specific ways in which has been made (e.g. fossil fuels, arms manufacture, tobacco) and broader structural critiques of capitalism as a whole?
  • Do the ethical concerns associated with a particular source of money relate directly to the way in which the money was made, or are they indirect? Does this affect the moral status of a donation?
  • In a highly interconnected world, with global financial systems, does it make sense to talk of any money as ‘tainted’ or ‘pure’?
  • Is it better for charities to refuse ethically dubious donations in order to avoid damaging themselves by association, or do they have a responsibility to take the money and put it to good uses?
  • What level of control is a tainted donor seeking to exert over how their money is used? How does this affect the decision about whether to accept it or not?
  • Will the donor get personal benefit from their donation- either in the form of tangible thanks or recognition, or in the form of more intangible social status and connections? Does this make accepting a gift more problematic?
  • Does a organisation’s decision to take money always imply approval of the donor to some degree? Is it possible to counteract this implication through overt condemnation whilst still taking the money?
  • In order to justify taking a charity accepting a tainted donation, does its work have to address a harm related to the way in which the money was made i.e. does there have to be some element of reparation?
  • Is there a statute of limitations on tainted donations? What should we do in cases of historic wrongs that occurred so long ago that no one affected is still alive?
  • On what legal basis can charity trustees decide to refuse a donation?
  • How do trustees balance the potential reputational risk of accepting a tainted donation against the certainty of financial loss from not accepting it?
  • Does public opinion actually support charities turning down donations from tainted sources?
  • If a donation has already been made, is it even possible in charity law for it to be returned?

 

Related Links

 -Ronan Farrow's New Yorker piece on Jeffrey Epstein and MIT MEdia Lab

-CAF Giving Thought Blog, “When Should Charities Say No To Donations?”

-CAF Giving Thought Blog “The Wages of Sin: Doing good with bad money”

-The “Criticisms of Philanthropy” chapter from my book Public Good by Private Means

-Matthew Ross’s HistPhil article about the history of donations to Notre Dame

-Ben Soskis’s Atlantic article “Dirty Money: from Rockefeller to Koch

-G.K. Chesterton's attack on J.D. Rockefeller: "Gifts of the Millionaire"

-Beth Breeze’s Guardian article “Should charities accept contrition cash from dubious donors?

-John Picton’s Conversation article “Sackler donations: why museums and galleries can be stuck with gifts – even if they don’t want them