Dear Nonprofiteer, Whose money is too filthy to take, and why?

Dear Nonprofiteer:

I’d be interested in your take on the Tucker Max/Planned Parenthood issue. That whole issue, which I’m sure you’ve touched on before, of NPOs making tough decisions about accepting donations is one that constantly comes up.

Signed, Hoping to Keep Clean Hands and Full Coffers

Dear Hoping:

So Tucker Max (a blogger the Nonprofiteer had never heard of until this letter) tries to give half a million dollars to Planned Parenthood, which has just lost funding from the Komen Foundation and is at risk of losing Federal funding, and PP turns the money down.

Under ordinary circumstances the Nonprofiteer would say, “WTF? So he’s a sexist piece of dog excrement! So he’s trying to whitewash his reputation! Why shouldn’t we help impoverish sexists by accepting their contributions? Why shouldn’t they pay restitution for their crimes and sins?”

But these aren’t ordinary circumstances, because the donor describes himself as follows:

My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions . . . sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.

Years of public education about what Planned Parenthood actually does would go right down the drain if it permitted itself to be publicly tied to an advocate of reckless, consequence-free sex. The Republicans have clearly hit a responsive chord when they strive to outdo each other in demonizing PP, and that chord is that the very existence of Planned Parenthood represents an utter breakdown of sexual morals. Never mind that this isn’t true: Tucker Max actually DOES represent an utter breakdown of sexual morals, and Planned Parenthood can’t afford to be associated with him.

In general, though, the Nonprofiteer remains in favor of taking money from bad people: it’s not possible to eradicate them, and they ought to be good for something. If she still shudders (as she does) at entering the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center, she consoles herself that it represents millions of dollars the self-same Koch no longer has available to give to the Tea Party.

It’s fine if donating makes an evil donor look good. Just be sure that accepting doesn’t make you look bad.

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5 Responses to “Dear Nonprofiteer, Whose money is too filthy to take, and why?”

  1. Anita Bernstein Says:

    Isn’t it routine, and not too newsworthy, for nonprofits to refuse large gifts that in their opinion would harm the mission? Planned Parenthood is different from Lincoln Center in that it depends much more on government funding and smallish gifts. Both might be jeopardized by this gimmick.

    If Tucker Max had been offering money in good faith, he had the option of donating anonymously. He’s good at marketing himself and I suspect he realizes that at 38 he is aging out of his fratboy shtick and needs a new stunt. I’d ignore him and the pseudo-controversy he confected.

    (He’s not just a blogger, alas, Nonprofiteer: Max has apparently made money from his nasty-sounding books. I’ve never seen them, but he says they are bestsellers.)

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      It is pretty routine, but of course Max made a big fuss about his gift’s being rejected and like Pavlov’s dog we responded; sorry. However, it is often debatable what would constitute “harming the mission,” which is why this is an issue that won’t go away. If Mothers Against Drunk Driving takes money from Seagram’s, is that suitable repentance or does it damage MADD’s credibility?

  2. Anita Bernstein Says:

    You’re right of course that “the mission” is a vague and elusive thing. I was just inclined to defer to management. Nonprofit boards have next to no accountability anyway! The bosses, I figure, are under enough pressure to bring in bucks that when they choose to turn away a controversial gift they probably know what they are doing.

  3. Bill Arvanites Says:

    Every time we apply a “purity” test to anything we deny the basic humanity we all share. Quite simply, that we are all a complex set of contradictions and failings. Strive as we might, we are all on a road to failure so the real issue is, along that road do we advance our own given agendas or do we presumptivley and self-righteously turn the cannon on others, lest it find us!

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      Bill, I agree but the topic isn’t the humanity we share but the interactions of organizations with which we’re affiliated. Everyone working at a particular corporation may be fine and yet its business may reflect badly on the recipient of its largesse. It’s not a purity test so much as an examination of how to be respectful to the public and your other supporters.

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