In the world of high-dollar corporate philanthropy, non-profits have sometimes gotten a bad rap. While it is true that wealthy corporations and successful businessmen and women have a significant amount of spending power to put towards tackling social issues, they are, in fact, often in the worst position to do so. While their intentions may be good, they often try to apply good business principles to tackling social issues and the two often don’t mix. In addition, it is quite natural for businesses and executives to pour money into causes that benefit themselves in some way, but in the end that often funnels money away from those that genuinely need it the most.
Take the Chan- Zuckerburg foundation for instance. They recently pledged $500 million to help create “affordable housing” in the Bay Area. That sounds, of course, like a noble goal but the question is, affordable to whom? Housing prices around Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters have skyrocketed from just over $1 million in 2012 to nearly $2.5 million in 2019. This means that executives making 6 figure salaries may struggle to afford a home, let alone workers making high 5-figures. So this “affordable housing” that the Chan-Zuckerburg foundation intends to build will more than likely benefit Facebook’s own lower paid employees than those that are truly needy.
In addition, while business models are good for business, they are not always good for charities. Take a food bank for instance. While it may make good business sense to have a single large food bank in a central location, that doesn’t always help the very people that food banks are intended to help. The financially struggling – those most likely to need the assistance of food banks in the first place – are often already working 2-3 jobs and in many cases are dependent on public transportation. It can often take an hour or more to get anywhere on public transportation, which means they would need to spend several hours in between their long working hours just going to get food.
Non-profits also offer a number of benefits that are often overlooked. Not only are non-profits not required to pay taxes, which means all contributions can be cycled directly towards their endeavors, but donors also receive a tax deduction for supporting the charity. Non-profits are also capable of attracting talent that big corporations often can’t, largely because non-profits are generally free from corporate goals and aims. While non-profits may never have the budgets that corporate philanthropy does, in the end, they may do far more good in spite of it.