Are We Funding Hate?
Frequently Asked Questions about Corporate Risk, Responsibility, and Response
Why should corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility staff be concerned about this issue?
Many corporations are taking steps to ensure that they are not funding hate and extremism through their corporate foundations, direct contributions, or employee giving programs. The reasons for this action vary, but fall into several broad categories:
- Social responsibility: Companies that have built a reputation for acting in the public interest, with products and services that improve quality of life for their customers, do not want to contribute to organizations or causes that conflict with this commitment.
- Brand consistency: For companies that have built their brand around strong alignment with specific social issues, communities, or organizational values, taking a public stand against hate and extremism bolsters their brand image and is part of their marketing strategy.
- Risk management: As public awareness of the problem of hate and extremism has increased, so has media attention and organized response to the sources of funds. Public controversy can affect a brand for many years and be hard to correct, so companies continually work to avoid negative publicity that could affect their customer base. Reports of funding hate and anti-democratic extremism are big news, with Kroger, Amazon, and Chick-Fil-A representing just a few of many examples. It is far better to set up policies and procedures in advance of public disclosure of a problematic event, both to minimize the chances of a problem arising and to be prepared to respond in a decisive way if one does. Having a policy in place also gives you the ability to demonstrate your intention should a concern arise.
What can we do to prevent funding hate and extremism?
Companies define their values and brands in myriad ways, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A comprehensive policy will both decrease the chance of funding these causes and provide a roadmap for action should an accusation arise.
Corporate leaders who have stepped forward to take a principled stand against hate and extremism include the following:
- The Association for Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) brings together professionals in the field of corporate responsibility and provides connections and resources, including sample policies, for corporate professionals putting their values into practice.
- Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP) has a public statement from leaders of some of the biggest global corporations where they speak out against discrimination and hate. Companies can join by contacting CECP directly.
- Amalgamated Foundation’s “Hate is Not Charitable” campaign offers an opportunity to join other philanthropic organizations taking a stand against hate.
How do we get started?
- Become more familiar with the issue. The Council on Foundations offers a great starting point: our report and resource hub provide an overview of the problem, philanthropic response, and resources. Both the report and resource hub include links to published articles and reports, as well as sample policies and the Council’s statement encouraging the philanthropic sector to take action. We recommend supplementing this by researching your target markets and learning which are most impacted by hate groups. Regional philanthropic organizations can be valuable resources for finding philanthropic expertise in your geographic targets.
- Determine whether your company has funded any groups that appear on lists of hate and extremist organizations (see below). Comparing a list of all grant recipients, including employee giving programs if you have them, lets you know where you stand. Including grantees from the past 5-10 years (depending on your capacity for this research and the tools available to you) will give you the most thorough data.
- In consultation with your legal counsel, create a policy that considers the following questions:
- How does the policy align with our corporate values and goals?
- What is the risk/benefit analysis of creating such a policy?
- What types of activities will be covered by the policy? For example, some companies have policies that apply to foundation giving but not employee giving programs or customer-designated gift programs, while others have policies that apply to all three.
- How will you address gifts designated by corporate leaders, including board members?
- Adopt a procedure for dealing with concerns as they arise. Your procedure will be specific to your company, but should at a minimum answer the following questions:
- Who is the point person in your company for receiving concerns related to hate funding? Keep in mind that these concerns may be triggered internally (staff, customers) or externally (media, watchdog groups).
- How will you gather information about the groups in question, and who will this information be shared with?
- Who are the decision-makers about the funding in question, and who needs to be notified about the decision?
- Will a public response be necessary, and if so, how will that be handled?
How do we identify hate groups?
The Council maintains a webpage of organizations that list hate, extremist, and anti-democratic groups, but there is no one definitive list. The starting point for many is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which offers information about many hate and anti-democracy extremist organizations. Not everyone agrees with all of SPLC’s listings, and you will likely want to use multiple sources, but they offer the most comprehensive list as a place to start.
Many corporations use commercial tools to help screen organizations and support corporate giving: Global Giving, Benevity, Blackbaud, YourCause, CAF America, and Bonterra (formerly CybergGrants) offer proprietary screening mechanisms that enable corporations to set up giving programs, including employee and customer giving, and screen organizations based on tax status, ethical compliance, and other issues. In addition, the Horizon Forum has developed a valuable tool that compiles many lists of hate and extremist groups, and the Amalgamated Foundation (associated with Amalgamated Bank) supports corporations in offering socially responsible philanthropic programs.
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The Council is available to speak with you further and is here to support you on this journey. We encourage you to visit the rest of our Values-Aligned Philanthropy Resource Hub. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, please let us know.