SALT LAKE CITY — For more than a year, a Catholic charity that helps educate poor children in Haiti had been trying to get a donation from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Last month, in the midst of controversy surrounding his arrest in a Florida prostitution sting, Kraft finally responded, offering the charity $100,000 through an intermediary.
The director of the charity, Patrick Moynihan, turned it down the same day, according to a report by Brian MacQuarrie in The Boston Globe.
"The last thing I wanted was a donation by Robert Kraft," Moynihan told MacQuarrie. "I could not be silent. I had to stand up."
Moynihan, a Roman Catholic deacon, said he could not accept money from Kraft, a 77-year-old widower who was charged in January with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft has publicly apologized, but pleaded not guilty.
This isn't the first time a charity has declined a large donation because of moral discomfort about the source. Last summer, for example, a Texas nonprofit that helps immigrant families turned down $250,000 that would have come from a company it said promoted the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2015, the Girl Scouts said no to a $100,000 donation from someone who stipulated the money not benefit transgender girls.
And it's not just money that gets rejected. In 2017, CNN reported that a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, rejected a bundle of Dr. Seuss books donated by First Lady Melania Trump.
When snubbing a would-be donor on moral grounds, nonprofits and schools can stand up for their beliefs at the expense of those they help. But people who work with nonprofits say it's important to be willing to turn donors away if their beliefs or actions contradict their cause. Here are the arguments they make.
Last year, a Texas nonprofit that provides free or low-cost legal services for immigrants was given $250,000 by Silicon Valley company Salesforce.
But the nonprofit, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, known as RAICES, said it would not accept the money unless Salesforce canceled its contracts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency charged with enforcing immigration law at the border.
“Pledging us a small portion of the money you make from (the agency’s) contracts will not distract us from your continuing support of this agency. We will not be a beneficiary of your effort to buy your way out of ethical responsibility,” the group’s executive director, Jonathan Ryan, wrote in an email to Salesforce, Wired magazine reported.
Salesforce founder Mark Benioff defended his company, saying that Salesforce was not involved in the separation of families at the border and had donated $1 million to organizations that help families that had been separated. Benioff and his wife, Lynne, have been called "serial donors" in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and they recently donated $30 million to establish an iniatiative to combat homelessness.
But writing about the failed contribution to RAICES on Good360, a website about nonprofits, Shari Rudolph said the incident was a good lesson for other charitable organizations.
“Rejecting a donation isn’t something that any nonprofit or charity should do lightly, but sometimes it’s exactly the right course of action," Rudolph wrote. "Accepting donations, whether cash-based or in-kind, that don’t align with your organization’s goals, values, or mission could be disastrous in the long run.”
Rudoph, Good360's chief marketing officer, offered three guidelines for nonprofits that are debating whether to accept a donation. She said organizations should reject a gift when the donor's values don't align with the organization's values, when the donation will distract from the mission, or when the donation has too many restrictions, as with the donation to the Girl Scouts that stipulated that the gift could not benefit transgender girls.
Donations that distract from a mission might be in-kind donations that wind up causing more work, such as when humanitarian relief organization Gleaning for the World had to pay to destroy toxic chemicals in donations it had been given, Rudolph wrote.
Most often, though, a charitable organization will reject a gift when the donor's values appear to be in conflict with the organization.
"It’s not a good sign when you’re afraid to mention the donor’s name,” Jeane Smiley-Mason, president of Gleaning For The World, told Rudolph, who wrote that organizations must be mindful of their reputations and not do anything to compromise the public's trust.
"By accepting a donation from a potential donor with values that bring your own into question, you risk eroding that trust. The larger the donation, the more attention it will generate and the more you need to consider the consequences," Rudolph wrote.
Sometimes charities have to reject donations after they've already accepted the money. In 2005, Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, announced it was returning a "pledged gift" of $1 million from David Radler, who was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to 29 months in jail. The school also removed Radler's name from a wing in the business school and from a "benefactor wall," according to Nonprofit Quarterly.
Reasons people give
In the TV show "Breaking Bad," ruthless drug kingpin Gustavo Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito, was a respected member of his community, in part because of his philanthropy. Fring was frequently celebrated by the local Drug Enforcement Agency because of his large donations to the office.
While most people have better motives when donating to charity than disguising criminal activity, some people do it to reduce their tax burden. About 30 percent of giving occurs in December, and 10 percent takes place in the last three days of the year, Tobie Stanger wrote in Consumer Reports.
A tax write-off is one of seven reasons people give, as reported by Linda Lombardi on the Network for Good last year. The others are: belief in an organization's mission, desire to make a difference, personal satisfaction, family upbringing, social networks and religious beliefs.
It's unclear what motivated Kraft to offer $100,000 to the Catholic charity in Rhode Island, but Moynihan, who is the brother of Bank of America chairman Brian Moynihan, said the offer came April 10, about a year and half after Moynihan first approached the businessman about The Haiti Project.
Formally recognized as a religious community under the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, The Haiti Project was founded in the 1980s to provide humanitarian aid and relief to the people of Haiti, according to its website, and helped to establish the Louverture Cleary School, outside Port-au-Prince, where tuition is free.
"Once a school with a handful of students and big dreams for the future, Louverture Cleary School has now grown to feed, house and educate 350 bright and enthusiastic students from the poorest neighborhoods of Haiti," the project's website says.
Patrick Moynihan told The Boston Globe that the decision to turn down Kraft's donation was "gut-wrenching" because the money could have covered a year's expenses for 50 students and that “$100,000 is hugely significant to us."
But he added, “I represent the needs of people who have a singularly terrible situation — a lack of assets. But we cannot do good by doing bad. The ends cannot justify the means.”
The charges filed against Kraft also caused another donation of his to be redirected.
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told WBUR that he would donate $3,600 — the amount Kraft donated to his campaign — to an organization that works to end human trafficking. (When the arrests at the Florida day spa were first announced, it was widely reported that the owners of the spa were involved in human trafficking. Authorities have since said this was not the case.)
But another recipient, a Boston nonprofit called My Life My Choice, will not return $100,000 the group received from Kraft three years ago, The Globe reported.16 comments on this story
While The Haiti Project may be out $100,000 in the short term, the publicity surrounding the contribution may prove to be helpful to the organization's overall cause, according to Rudolph of Good360.
"Rejecting a donation can lead to happier endings," Rudolph wrote. "After refusing to take the restricted $100K gift, the Girl Scouts launched a crowdfunding campaign to recoup the lost money. The campaign, dubbed #ForEVERYGirl, raised more than $300,000 — triple the original goal."