Why do we spend so much time worrying about the ethics of accepting funds and so little time worrying about the ethics of refusing funds? When a company offers funding to a charity, too often the charity is thrown into a tailspin of agony while it decides whether or not it should accept the donation. I have seen so many cases of donations being turned down, but I have never witnessed a debate about the ethics of rejecting a donation.
If a donation means that a project stays open that would otherwise close, is it ethical to refuse a grant because of its source? How often are the project’s beneficiaries asked about whether they care where the donation comes from? I know of no cases, and I would like to bet that most beneficiaries wouldn’t care half as much as the charity supposedly working for them.
While it is of course vital that the charity’s reputation is not put at risk by accepting funds that could compromise it, the reality is that this would seldom happen in practice. We need to develop a new ethical framework based on the benefits to the cause of accepting a gift and the damage of refusing it. This could lead to a much healthier relationship between the corporate and voluntary sector, and to a much greater impact on the lives of those who benefit from the voluntary sector’s efforts.