Who Are You Hooking Up With?

Hooters wings, anyone? No? Ok.

So what exactly does the public perception of a corporate donor have to do with them giving to an organization?

Apparently everything for St. Patrick’s Center; a catholic charity for the homeless near St. Louis, MO. According to an article on HuffPost Impact, after receiving complaints from one too many stakeholders, the charity cut ties with long time local corporate supporter, Hooters. Yes, you know them: the restaurant with the top-heavy waitresses in daisy-dukes. Complainers didn’t think the scantily clad Hooters women aligned with mission of the religious-based charity. As a result, the charity decided it was best to disassociate themselves from the popular restaurant chain- even if it meant losing valuable dollars for their upcoming fundraiser. Although the final decision came from the organization’s leadership not all of their stakeholders agreed; including some residents and donors.

Was St. Patrick’s decision the best course of action? Could they have chosen another route? Perhaps a private donation from the restaurant would have worked? What about their fundraising goals?….These are all questions I’m sure the executive leadership of St. Patrick’s considered. However, in the end they felt the reputation of their organization was better off without the association of large whowhos and butt cheeks.

Personally, I agree.

Why, you ask? Well, I think it is vital for organizations to be extremely mindful of the reputation and perceptions of their donors- at all levels but especially major gifts and corporate donors. Unlike private institutions, public entities thrive on the monies from funders. As a result, they are literally a product of those who give. I run into this challenge every year while selecting honorees for the NY Cares Spring Gala. There are plenty of do-gooders in NYC but the committee and the staff at NY Cares must make sure the reputations of the honorees align the mission of NY Cares. For example, how would it look for PETA to partner with Outback Steakhouse for their annual luncheon? Or say Girls, Inc. decides it’s a good idea to have Playboy sponsor their spring gala? Either of these fictional mash-ups could happen but, does the public perception of the corporation support the mission of the nonprofit? It doesn’t. And potentially, the association of these donors could do more damage than good.

Some may argue isn’t any money good money for non-profits struggling in this economy? Shouldn’t they just take what they can get? …Would you ask the same of a drug dealer using illegal funds to sponsor a local after-school program? It’s a tough game of ethics meets morals meets missions meets fundraising but somebody’s got to play it! #foodforthought

We all have a stake in the reputation of the organizations we support and love. We should try to protect their best interests by making sure their donors (and sponsors) reflect their missions and goals well. 

…..So while Hooters in midtown may be an excellent place to take the clients you want to close the deal with, it might not be the best corporation to sponsor the women’s empowerment group whose Board you are on. But I hear the wings are great!

Hey, I’m just one person. What are your thoughts today?

2 thoughts on “Who Are You Hooking Up With?

  1. Great thought. As I tweeted, reputation is an important “commodity” that a nonprofit can gain or lose – and it is hard to get back what has been lost (simply think of past charitable scandals). You should also consider having people and organizations who share your values (or at least some overlapping values). Especially in small communities, or where your nonprofit is the biggest fish in the pond, the community will be watching, considering and coming to a conclusion which you may not be able to influence later on.

    1. Absolutely agree! As soon as people find out about a questionable donor, it makes them question why the organization accepted- that is of course if they were unaware of the liability before hand. Either way due diligence is key! Thanks for the comment Beth!

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