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The Ethical Dilemma of Accepting Tainted Donations

Cause marketers and others have made much of the recent cause marketing campaign by KFC benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

My old pal Joe Waters at the Boston Medical Center and his many commenters have stated very well the ethical dilemma that charities can face in forging cause marketing relationships.

But, of course, the charititable fundraising business as a whole is fraught with ethical challenges.

Here’s a particularly challenging and recent one from the UK that has come to my attention.

Reginald Forester-Smith was a ‘photographer to the stars’ and royalty in the United Kingdom the 1970s.

In 1999 he was tried, convicted and jailed for repeatedly raping his young daughter over an 18-year-period. He spent eight years in prison. At least two other girls came forward to say that Forester-Smith had sexually abused them as well. His daughter, now aged 42, published a book about her experience in 2002.

Forester-Smith served his time and died last July at the age of 77. His wife, Sheena, died in 2001. Forester-Smith’s estate bequeathed more than £1m to three charities, including £312,291 each to the Macmillan Nurses Cancer Association and Cancer Research UK.

Now news has come out that Forester-Smith had also bequeathed £400,000 to Girlguiding Scotland, an analogue in the United States to the Girls Scouts.

So if you’re Girlguiding Scotland, do you take the money?

Here’s a few things to keep in mind.
  • Forester-Smith served his time.
  • Forester-Smith is dead.
  • Forester-Smith left nothing for his daughter.
  • Neither the Macmillan Nurses Cancer Association and Cancer Research UK have announced yet whether they will accept the gift, so Girlguiding doesn’t have any cover from them.
  • The estate made the gift to the Girlguiding Scotland in memory of his wife, who was an active supporter of the Girl Guides and Brownies.
  • Girlguiding Scotland is particularly well-placed to use the money to fight child abuse in all its odious forms.
All that said, you can appreciate why Girlguiding is taking its time thinking about this bequest.
  • Isn't accepting it tantamount to a whitewash of Forester-Smith's horrible crimes?
  • Forester-Smith's money is all but blood money.
  • His daughter has so far remained silent, but a family friend has said that it would be reprehensible for Girlguides to accept it.
I’d love to get your opinion. Should Girlguiding Scotland accept the donation or not?


Stephany said…
They should accept it and immediately give every penny to the daughter.
Dawn W said…
What if the punishment for his crime were being stripped of his wealth and the court designating the money to charity?

It's the same money, but emotionally I suspect that we'd feel better if the money came to the charity titled "punishment" instead of "gift." I know I would.

There is so much need in the world. I hope that the charities take the money - and create some good, some assistance, some hope for those in need.
Wouldn't it be cool if they brought the daughter in, perhaps to administer a program training girls in how to spot/avoid/report abuse? I think especially since Forester-Smith is dead and can't benefit from the publicity (and may have named the beneficiary as an act of remorse), it wouldn't be blood money--but should be earmarked specifically to be used in ways that undo the damage he and his ilk have done.
Stephany makes a point that many commenting in the newspapers in England have made; the daughter deserves some recompense.

Dawn's point, I think, is very penetrating. Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless competitor and sometimes a not very nice man. His wealth came from environmentally rapacious enterprises. Much the same could be said about John D. Rockefeller. But few are the charities that would decline grants from either the Carnegie or Rockefeller foundations, both of which have given away tens of billions over the last 100 or so years.

Shel sorta splits the baby, allowing the daughter to administer the funds. I have no idea what kind of administrative experience she has, so I can imagine that the charity would be chary of this idea. But why not bring her in as an adviser? She literally wrote the book on parental child abuse. Who better to help girls recognize the danger signs?

Thanks to all of you for your comments!

Warm regards,

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