In the wake of nationwide riots and looting, corporations decided to make wild declarations about their commitment to the organization Black Lives Matter and send them directly to customers or post them on social media. You may have seen one of these and rolled your eyes. I know I have.
The Real BLM
Panicked CEOs decided to throw their money into a dark hole, where the leaders of the organization refuse to be transparent about how funds are spent. Some analyses have shown BLM spends very little on local programs and much more on travel and consulting.
Still other investigations have shown the BLM national organization is not a charity under IRS guidelines. Instead, they “borrow” 501(c)(3) status from a group called 1000 Currents. This charity just happens to be headed by a domestic terrorist who spent 16 years in federal prison for various bombings and other crimes. She would have stayed longer, but Bill Clinton pardoned her.
CEOs Fending Off the Mob
Additionally, Black Lives Matter is also an overtly political organization that has policy preferences such as defunding the police and other radical stances that are not popular with most Americans. Yet, to avoid the mob and pay some sort of social ransom, CEOs threw money into the chasm, and then virtue-signaled to employees and customers with their good deeds. In an odd turn, many pointedly insulted a significant portion of recipients by implying they were racists. Well done, corporate America.
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Having worked for several Fortune 500 companies and deeply understanding their hiring, development, and promotion policies, there was a simple way to go about this for most organizations. Only about 8% of adults in the U.S. are progressive activists. An even smaller percentage agrees with the full BLM platform. A courageous CEO and executive team could have easily taken a different stance.
From the CEO
If I were still involved in internal communications or giving input to external communications, I would have suggested something like this.
In response to recent events, Company X wants to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We strive to ensure our company is a reflection of the communities where we work and live, and our hiring and promotion policies reflect this.
However, at this time, we feel a need to redirect some of our corporate giving to assist disadvantaged communities. We evaluate our charitable partners very carefully and ensure that the majority of their funds go to programs in the communities they serve.
Company X is committing to $10M over five years to the Woodson Center. Founded in 1981 by civil rights leader Bob Woodson, the organization has a long history of improving distressed communities focusing on reducing violence and combatting addiction. They use 92.7% of donations to benefit their nationwide portfolio of programs.
In addition, we will be donating $10M over the next five years to the Success Academy Charters in New York City. Success Academies teach 17,000 students from some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city on a pure lottery basis. For the past three years, their students have achieved the highest passing percentage on state math and English tests in the entire state. Their student body is 94% minority, with an average household income of under $50,000.
To give additional opportunities, our corporate headquarters will be working through the Department of Labor to create an approved apprenticeship program. This program will allow high school students to enter a defined career path with training and mentorship upon successful graduation. Exceptional students from low-income school districts will have an opportunity for a fantastic career with Company X while earning a good salary, rather than taking on debt.
At Company X, we are committed to improving lives and opportunities in the communities where we operate. Whether it is through our outstanding products and services or our community giving, we are determined to make a difference. We look forward to sharing the success of these programs as they progress.
A CEO with Courage
Why It Matters
A sincere organization will ensure their community programs make a difference efficiently and tangibly. Customers who value community giving want to know their money is being spent with an organization that gives to programs that deliver results. They feel they share in those good works.
Further, employees take pride in the excellent community work their organization supports. In most companies, employees will donate time to their employer’s community programs. I have given time to any number of charities as a representative of my employer in schools, foster care agencies, and other settings.
There is no reason for an organization to grant the premise of a political organization. In fact, they run the risk of alienating employees and customers if they pick sides. If there were courage in corporate America, this would not even be a question.