The “Donate” Button

I figure this is appropriate since I’m participating in a Movember fundraiser. I’ve never been a huge fan of donating through a for-profit company. I feel that the implications of running my money through something like Wally World is sketchy at best, since they’re in the business of pocketing as much of my money as possible. I always have to question: why are they so interested in the donation? What do they get out of it?

There is a logical assumption that they’re getting a tax break for what is, effectively, giving you a discount. Often, they offer some tiny percentage (like Amazon’s current half a percent) that amounts to less money that their usual discounts (5%, 10%, and 15% are more normal numbers) which, in the right perspective, they could suggest that you donate to any given organization. But it’s always irked me.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

― Mother Teresa

I have a problem with giving for any reason other than giving. I never collect a receipt for my taxes (maybe that’s bad business), I never do it to generate more revenue, and I don’t make a big deal out of it (I still haven’t disclosed how much I’ve personally donated to Movember anonymously, and I won’t). In fact, the only reason you know that I support Movember is because I want to get others to donate to the cause and join my team. I don’t do charity for marketing, which as it turns out, is the most major factor in a company’s decision to have your purchase generate a donation. You see, people are more likely to make a purchase if it donates to a cause they care about. This seems like a great thing. You were going to buy that mayonnaise anyway, but brand “B” donates to breast cancer research. Of course, since brand “A” isn’t making any donation of your purchase, you buy “B” and feel good about yourself for doing it.

The core of the problem is, as many studies show, that this sort of cause-related marketing drives donation capital downward. The organizations receiving the benefit are getting less of the money that you thought you were spending on them than they would if you went to their website and made a direct donation.

It’s bitter to hear, I know, but most companies aren’t in any way tied to the organizations that they’re rallying support for. Take the case of a famous yogurt manufacturer that asks that you send in the foil seals from their containers. There is a chemical that they use that’s directly linked as a cause for the very problem that their charity is trying to solve. Plus, the postage costs more than the 4 foil lids are worth to the charity.

The point is that when you give, do it for the right reasons, and do it directly. Lucy Bernholz, a self-proclaimed “Philanthropy Wonk” offers up her thoughts on what she calls “Embedded Giving.” It’s a good read, and something important to think about. If you choose to support the Movember cause or join my Mo Team, know that you will be making your donations directly to the nonprofit. And, if you want the write-off, it will be yours, not mine.

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.