Donors Affiliate

When you donate to a charity, you not only give them resources to further their aims, you also affiliate with others who donate to the same charity. Because of this, you might not donate to a charity you otherwise like because you dislike other donors. And because of that, charities may refuse donations from disliked people.

Think that doesn’t apply to you? If you donate to Planned Parenthood, they think it applies to you – they refused a $500,000 donation by Tucker Max. Why? Because:

PP: “I guess it’s the way you write about women.”

Tucker “What do you mean? I’m not negative towards women in my writing. Women love my writing; more than half my fans are female.”

PP: “Well…there are certain jokes you make we feel can be perceived in a certain negative manner.”

Tucker: “So because I made a fat girl joke you won’t accept a $500,000 donation?”

PP: “I wouldn’t characterize it that way.”

Tucker: “How would you then? I’m listening and I want your best quote.”

PP: “We don’t feel it would be appropriate, given Planned Parenthood’s mission and your body of work, to accept your donation.”

Tucker: “What? I thought Planned Parenthood’s mission was about helping women, not passing judgment on humor.” (more)

It seems Planned Parenthood thinks that by accepting Tucker’s large donation they would discourage even more donations by others.

Would you refuse to donate to a charity because someone you disliked had also donated? What if you could be assured this donor had no influence on what the charity did with its money?

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  • Vaniver

    Hm. I totally feel warm about and connected to the main charity I support, and I would feel better about someone else if I heard that they also donated to that charity, but I don’t think I would feel worse about the charity if I heard that someone I disliked also supported them. But I’ve also put years into training myself to find the good and true in other people, and that might have dampened negative affiliation effects like that to the point where I don’t anticipate or notice them.

    Now, suppose there’s a field I don’t do any charitable donations in, but I want to start. If I know a personal enemy is associated with Alcor, say, and I’m trying to decide whether to support Alcor or SI, would that push me towards SI? Again, probably not. My enemies just aren’t that important to me.

    • JenniferRM

      I think Robin is overselling the “getting to affiliate with other donors” angle and ignoring the obvious issue having to do with completely reasonable inferences that people will make about organizations based on who funds them. Even if reciprocity effects are somehow magically not causing donor interests to be catered to by people in the organization, there’s still the possibility that an organization has internally unintended causal consequences that are “bad” and which instrumentally rational “bad people” are in favor of, notice are being advanced, and intentionally fund for that reason.

      You probably know a lot about SI and Alcor because they’re regular topics of conversation around this blog and more distant reputation-based evidence is screened off for them by the details… But what if the first thing you heard about a new-you-you organization was that someone with high efficacy and goals you thought were terrible was funding them? Wouldn’t that lead you to suspect they were causally connected to bringing those terrible goals to fruition?

      However, spelling it out this way suggests a more amusing reason to discount bad donors as a signal about the consequences an organization is actually furthering: Perhaps, having trained yourself to think coherently for several years, you’ve started to think that the background rate of “consequential efficacy” among other people is really really low, even among those capable of making large donations, so you don’t expect basically anyone else’s donations to coherently mean anything 😉

  • Dremora

    Would you refuse to donate to a charity because someone you disliked had also donated?

    No. But I donate only very rarely and strategically, to underrepresented causes that I think can have high impact.

  • John Maxwell IV

    Women love my writing; more than half my fans are female.

    That doesn’t fit my model of human behavior well. I would’ve predicted women readers were a well-represented minority. Does he discuss this assertion more anywhere? Seems like the sort of thing one might make up on the spot to sound good in an interview.

    • nazgulnarsil

      does the fact that serial killers get deluged with love letters fit your model of human behavior well?

    • Konkvistador

      Matches my model just fine.

    • ChristianKl

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2012/01/18/tucker-max-gives-up-the-game/4/ is a long interview with him that includes Tucker Max backing up the claim with showing the reporter the statistics 52% of his Twitter followers are female.

      The interview is also generally worth reader if you want to know why Tucker Max would give money to PP.

    • Jahed

      He has numbers to back this, it’s not just a made-up assertion.

    • NAME REDACTED

      Then your model is wrong. Women find wit extremely attractive, even if its delivered in a misogynist fashion. Anyway, amusingly enough he wrote for a bit for Cosmo usually mocking women in his articles (I bet you didn’t know that).

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    On his wikipedia page it is mentioned that some of his performances have been picketed by people objecting to their perception that he glorifies rape culture.

  • Phillowe

    Ostensibly you donate to a charity because YOU believe in it. What other people believe in or donate should be irrelevant. That a felon prays to your God or gives to your church in no way changes your supposed motivation.

    Unless the real reason you donate is to signal to other people.

  • http://suitdummy.blogspot.com Ely

    This reminds me of a very similar story in which the American Cancer Society turned down a $500,000 donation that would have come from an atheist organization.

    From the charity’s perspective, they can probably do some crude modeling to determine how much their other aggregated donations will decrease if they accept a donation from a source that is disliked by many of their other supporters. Only if the donations that they give up by associating are smaller than the lump sum from the ill-perceived donor will it really be expedient to accept the donation. And in fact, turning down such a donation might be seen as “scoring a victory” by large segments of the regular donor population, incentivizing them to give more.

    (Hmm, maybe wealthy atheists can actually “give” to a charity by just trying to give and being turned down, spurring additional donations to rally behind the “atheists-not-welcome” banner. )

    I don’t like this, but I don’t see it changing any time soon. Which just reminds me that, however much I really support the ideas behind things likeGiving What We Can, there’s a depressingly formidable chasm between the average donor’s preferences and the idea of optimal philanthropy.

    • Dremora

      I think this is fine iff the theist donors are ready to pay an extra $500k for the luxury to donate to a charity that exclusively accepts donations from theists. In that case, the atheists can simply lean back and spend their money on ale and whores, and the theists will handle the world’s problems with extra motivation. Sounds good to me. 🙂

  • Bruce

    I would donate to charities that I believe would benefit the most from my donation and to the ones that I believe would use it to in the best way to serve and help people. Those the the two biggest factors for me in choosing who and why to donate money to.

    PP could have benefited from a $500k donation. They are facing severe funding cuts. The women they serve, especially in Texas, could have definitely benefited from the $500k donation. They could of even opened or saved an entire clinic.

    I feel this story should of never happened if PP accepted the donation or at least handled this situation better.

  • richard silliker

    SAD STORY.

  • David

    I wonder if it entered into their calculation that when they left this guy’s money on the table, it significantly lowered my confidence that they’d wisely invest my donation. Seriously, if their administrative staff combs through the writings of their donors looking for off-color jokes, they don’t sound like a very streamlined outfit. Even if I really support PP’s mission, that’s not the kind of thing I want my donations used for.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/ TGGP
  • http://suitdummy.blogspot.com Ely

    As another salient example, consider the terrible backlash against Ron Paul for stating, plainly and clearly, that he unequivocally condemns racism and yet will keep donations received from a white supremacist, explaining that he thinks he can use the money more effectively than giving it back to the white supremacist.

    Most media outlets vilified him for this and in Google searching just now it’s been nearly impossible to find any story on it that’s remotely neutral, let alone positive.

    Perhaps it’s one of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situations. Give back the money and you’re a dumb charity; keep the money and you somehow endorse bad beliefs.

    • http://bur.sk/ Viliam Búr

      Damned if you do damned if you don’t, was my first thought too. I would be pretty angry if a charity would ask me for donation right after refusing a ton of money from a millionaire! But then, if you a charity, and a controversial person decides to give you money and tell the whole world about it, you have already lost.

      But then I read a comment below the article — I suspect […] THIS story is the actual marketing ploy (I had no idea who this guy was until the story) […] Planned Parenthood was right and I applaud their decision. — and think: wait, maybe this was actually a win-win solution. Both sides get media attention for a zero cost!

      At the end I’m confused about the outcome. I am sure that Tucker Max profited from this. But I am not sure about the outcome of Planned Parenthood.

  • http://danieltarmac.blogspot.com Henry

    This reminds me of a Simpsons episode where Lisa refused 10% of $120 million she made as Mr Burn’s partner in a fish processing plant. I got annoyed that by doing so, she was effectively giving a man she considered evil $12 million.

    • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

      Good point – my grandmother has a friend she wants to leave money to in her will, but she fears the friend will refuse to accept it. I told her to write it up so that if the friend doesn’t accept it, it goes to the Republican party! Odd that accepting donations from Bad People is considered Bad even though doing so deprives the Bad People of the money.

  • ChristianKl

    In this case I don’t think it’s much of the interests of Planed Parenthood.

    It’s about the fact that the people who run Planed Parenthood hate Tucker Max and use their power to express personal grievances.

  • vic

    I do not know anything about Tucker. However, I suspect that if the charity was supported by evil people such as dictators or extremists and had a named gift policy that allowed these donors to put their name on the foundation’s projects, other donors would be influenced by that.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    How is this different than people who at one time sought a certain goal rejecting that goal once certain other people join in the effort to reach it?

    For example, in the past, Republicans were for an individual health insurance purchase mandate. When Obama passed legislation that included an individual mandate, Republicans were opposed. Even republicans who originated the individual mandate idea (Romney).

    • http://jayquantified.blogspot.com/ Jayson Virissimo

      How is this different than people who at one time sought a certain goal rejecting that goal once certain other people join in the effort to reach it?

      It is different because in one case someone is abandoning a goal completely (perhaps hypocritically, perhaps not) and in the other someone is not abandoning a goal but refusing help achieving said goal from select persons only.

      For example, in the past, Republicans were for an individual health insurance purchase mandate. When Obama passed legislation that included an individual mandate, Republicans were opposed. Even republicans who originated the individual mandate idea (Romney).

      Like clockwork, this one.

  • Poelmo

    “Would you refuse to donate to a charity because someone you disliked had also donated? What if you could be assured this donor had no influence on what the charity did with its money?”

    What guarantees do I have that the donor has no influence on what the charity does with the money? Donations in politicis certainly do influence politicians, so why would it not be so with charities (maybe it isn’t, but then I’d like some proof of that).

    Also, the issue here was not simply a donation by Tucker Max, but him wanting his name on a clinic (that’s what you get for a $500.000 donation). PP wanted to accept the money, if it was done quietly, but they didn’t want to put Tucker’s name on one of their clinics.

    “What do you mean? I’m not negative towards women in my writing. Women love my writing; more than half my fans are female.”

    Those female fans may not be representative of PP clients, PP donors or women in general.

    “As another salient example, consider the terrible backlash against Ron Paul for stating, plainly and clearly, that he unequivocally condemns racism and yet will keep donations received from a white supremacist, explaining that he thinks he can use the money more effectively than giving it back to the white supremacist.”

    First of all any politician who says donations don’t influence him, not even indirectly or in an unconscious manner (ask yourself, would Ron Paul come out harder against racism if he didn’t get those donations?), is either the love child from a threesome involving Jesus, Buddha and Gandhi, or he’s lying. Second, people could very well see this as him taking bloodmoney (maybe the money was gathered by beating up and robbing black people, or by discrimination involving only hiring white supremacists, etc…). Yes, it’s better to take their money then leave it in their hands, but it’s still worse than returning the money to the victims of white supremacy groups.

    • http://suitdummy.blogspot.com Ely

      But no one was demanding for him to donate the ill-gotten money to charity or anything. They were specifically made that he accepted it at all, or didn’t give it back to the donor immediately. I think you’re discrediting people’s funny beliefs here: they don’t treat voodoo money from bad people the same way they treat ‘regular folk’ money. Moral views absolutely influence what they believe money can even be used for at all. Of course, they are probably mostly hypocritical about it, but that doesn’t help a politician.

      Also, I’m not sure what your point is about Ron Paul. I more or less believe him that he isn’t influenced by donors. And I mean, come on. It’s not like white supremacists, or even racists, make up a meaningful portion of his donations. He has rejected lobbyist money for decades and his publicly released congressional earnings reports demonstrate that. While I am sure that he has his faults like any politician, I do not believe that he would somehow “come out stronger” against racism if that one-off white supremacist had not given him money. He’s as legitimately ant-racism a candidate as I have seen in the past ~30 years.

      And, my view is that it would be pretty silly for people to think he can keep the donation but only if he donates it to some sort of white supremacist victims fund — there are far more effective charities to donate to that would help people more. Most folks might have the view you suggested, but that doesn’t make it sensible.

  • Poelmo

    Of course, charity in itself is a rather cynical concept: throwing the poor masses a bone from time to time keeps them from questioning the system. In a just world a guy writing about his drunken escapades (we’ve got a badass over here…) would not have $500.000 to spare and this money would be going to hard working women and mothers who would then not have to rely on charity to get help with women’s health issues.

    We should not be praising this man for donating $500.000 (more than times what most hardworking, productive people make) to charity, we should be cursing our sick world where an unproductive guy writing about his drunken escapades can extract a multitude of that $500.000 in purchasing power from the economy and then distract people’s attention from this fact by donating, what is to him, pocket change, to charity. It would be more praiseworthy if he charged a lot less for his works, or stopped charging after he made an amount equivalent to a living wage over the period he spent writing.

    The same can be said of most forms of charities, and rich donors, who usually are not really generous at all since their income minus donations is still much more than their “work” is really worth (which means they’re taking more than they’re giving back), especially when the donations are tax-deductible.

    • John Thacker

      A fair argument, but even more cynical is the idea that it’s praiseworthy to vote to spend other people’s money.

      If private charity is not really generous, government charity, and voting for it, is even less so.

      • Poelmo

        You’re analogy is flawed in at least 10 ways.

      • roystgnr

        There are at least 10 flaws in this thread as a whole.

        Charity, in this context the fact that people will unilaterally give of themselves to help others, is the opposite of a cynical concept.

        Claiming that money either goes to a drunken writer or to hardworking women and mothers is a false dilemma.

        Comparing an amassed sum of money to an annual salary is not even dimensionally consistent.

        Someone making money is not “extracting purchasing power” from the economy.

        The word “extract” has connotations (in some definitions denotations) of force, which is an inaccurate way to describe voluntary book sales.

        Making large public donations is a way of calling attention to how much money you have accumulated, not distracting from that fact.

        Although there is no objective definition of worth, the most useful subjective definitions in a transaction are those of the people transacting. E.g. a person’s work is most commonly worth more than their income in the estimation of consumers of that work who provide that income, else they would not have volunteered to transact.

        The possessive is spelled “Your”, not “You’re”.

        John Thacker made an argument, not an analogy.

        There aren’t actually 10 flaws in his argument.

        Even if there had been 10 or more flaws, claiming to have counted 10 of them but not enumerating any would have been unhelpful.

      • Poelmo

        “Charity, in this context the fact that people will unilaterally give of themselves to help others, is the opposite of a cynical concept.”

        The market is amoral: just because you’ve got money doesn’t mean you’ve morally earned it.

        “Claiming that money either goes to a drunken writer or to hardworking women and mothers is a false dilemma.”

        Money is a piece of paper. Resources are what matter (and they are more or less zero sum because a scenario where resources go to a writer doesn’t speed up technological progress compared to a scenario where resources go to working people): our IP rights system is immoral in that it does actually allocate way too many of society’s resources to creative content producers (or rather the megacorporations holding the IP rights).

        “Comparing an amassed sum of money to an annual salary is not even dimensionally consistent.”

        Unless Tucker Max 300 is years old, it kinda is.

        “Someone making money is not “extracting purchasing power” from the economy.”

        You’re right, should’ve said “society”.

        “The word “extract” has connotations (in some definitions denotations) of force, which is an inaccurate way to describe voluntary book sales”

        People are not aware of how they get ripped off.

        “Although there is no objective definition of worth, the most useful subjective definitions in a transaction are those of the people transacting. E.g. a person’s work is most commonly worth more than their income in the estimation of consumers of that work who provide that income, else they would not have volunteered to transact.”

        Society would not break down without Tucker Max’s work and it’s absurd to think that value can increase with population size, so we do know a linear number of sales-revenue relation is a scam.

        “John Thacker made an argument, not an analogy.”

        He did make an analogy: “If private charity is not really generous, government charity, and voting for it, is even less so.”

  • Dave

    I don’t know who Tucker is but I do know he has a great publicity agent!
    If Tucker paid him $10000 for this he saved $40 thousand.

  • Wonks Anonymous

    Off-topic, but Eric Posner has a very anti-Hansonian argument for banning speculation.

    Poelmo, the idea that Tucker Max’ donation to PP is “throwing the poor masses a bone from time to time [to keep] them from questioning the system” is bizarre. He shares many of PP’s goals and thinks it would be good for them to have more money.

    “It would be more praiseworthy if he charged a lot less for his works”
    A lot of his work is freely available online (which is how most people heard of him). I don’t know if he receives ad revenue from that or what. You may regard his work as “unproductive”, but lots of people seem to be entertained by it.

    • Poelmo

      He’s not doing it on purpose, but the nature of our economical system is such that a donation to charity basically does come down to throwing a bone to the masses. I do not think Max should not be paid anything for his work, I’m just against people making money off of population size (he doesn’t have to work a minute longer to sell twice as many books, yet he makes twice as much money). Do note that I favor the abolition of money and capitalism alltogether, so when I say a writer shouldn’t get a lot of money I’m not saying he should be left to die on the streets, I’m saying he should get the same basic income purchasing power as an unemployed person, stay at home parent, student or hobbyist painter), so less than someone who does a vital, tough job for society (military, science, designing, education, healthcare, mining, production, recycling, emergency services, etc…), but still enough to live comfortably.

    • Poelmo

      And yeah, it’s sad that we haven’t gotten rid of speculation yet…

      1) All of it’s supposed benefits can be provided by insurance, financial consulting and saving plans at lower cost and with lower volatility.

      2) Speculating means people making money off of nothing, which means speculators are on the public dole (white collar welfare queens).

      3) Speculation is worse than gambling because speculators often gamble with other people’s money, or worse, when banks are speculating they can take money fresh off the FED’s presses (only limited by the maximum allowed inflation for the year) and create a casino where they can only ever win.

  • db

    I think the issue is more complicated with respect to donations from infamous pravocatours, such as Tucker Max.

    The charity may worry that the donor will publicly mischaracterize the nature of the donation raising questions in the public’s mind as to whether the donation really was without strings.

    I have also seen it reported that Tucker Max has joked in the past that his antics have resulted in so many abortions that Planned Parenthood should name a clinic after him. If he is then also a major PP donor the public may reasonably think that he has some special insight into the goals of the organization. Jokes like the above then might lead people to belive that PP is pro abortion, as in, activly wants to increase the nubmer of abortions performed rather than merely wanting to ensure that anyone who wants an abortion is able to do so.

    • lemmy caution

      “As an advisor and strategist for big authors and big brands, I find myself solving strange problems. The problem Tucker had come to me (that led to this) was one them:

      “Ryan, I have a huge tax burden this year. I can reduce it with a large donation to charity, but I want to promote my new book at the same time. Can you come up with something cool that does both?””

      If I was a charity I would be hesitant to accept money in such an obvious publicity stunt. Tucker Max giving money to the united way wouldn’t make the news. Tucker Max giving money to planned parenthood would.

    • dirk

      I agree. They aren’t afraid of discouraging future donors but in giving the enemies of PP more political ammunition. It isn’t hard to imagine social conservatives saying “PP is an organization that caters to sluts and if you don’t believe it read one of Tucker Max’ books and note that they have a clinic named after him.”

  • John Thacker

    Another similar example recently is the Little League team (in Los Angeles, I believe) that refused a donation from a strip club.

  • Will

    I think the issue isn’t that he wanted to donate to planned parenthood, they’d probably take his money- its that he did it in order to get naming rights for a clinic. This promotes his book- and plays into his joke that he has caused so many abortions they should name a clinic after him.

    At a time when planned parenthood is losing money in donations primarily because of the erroneous belief that abortion is the majority of what it does, allowing a publicity stunt that ties them strongly to abortion is clearly stupid.

  • Michael Foody

    This doesn’t entirely invalidate the point but it does look like this donation was a not completely sincere (meaning getting rejected may well have been the point) publicity stunt where tucker Max attempted to procure naming rights for an abortion clinic. Even without the naming rights a large organizations name is important so I can see cases where accepting large donations from controversial figures that are likely to be highly publicized and potentially a source of ridicule may not be wise.

    http://jezebel.com/5898721/tucker-maxs-bizarre-campaign-to-use-planned-parenthood-for-publicity

  • Jeff S

    How much free publicity did PP get by rejection this donation? How much did Tucker Max get by offering it? Win-win.

    • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

      About 143,000 web pages worth of publicity – according to Google – not too bad for an investment of no dollars!

  • http://hahopefullyanonymous.blogspot.com Hopefully Anonymous

    Planned Parenthood is a great organization doing important work. It’s less clear how much the world benefits from Tucker Max -he entertains folks, on the other hand he’s part of a fantasy industry that may be spreading STD’s and lowering overall quality of life.

  • Ben L

    One thing people are leaving out: Planned Parenthood may have their own reasons for discouraging the kinds of remarks Tucker makes if they feel it contributes to misogyny – not accepting a donation is a way of socially ostracizing him for his remarks as an incentive to others, and simultaneously a way for PP to signal that they are principled.

  • Michael Wengler

    Robin,  I think your post is wildly flawed in not mentioning that Tucker offered PP $500,000 on the condition that they name an abortion clinic after him.  That piece of information changes everything.