It’s “Giving Tuesday” on December 3. Following Black Friday, on Giving Tuesday, people all across the United States will be kicking off the holiday season not with shopping, they say, but with giving.
In just its second year, Giving Tuesday is attracting thousands of participants large and small. Whenever haves help have-nots that’s worthy of praise. Still, when massive global corporations want praise too, I get a little queasy.
Don’t get me wrong, GRITtv is viewer-supported. We’re all for charitable giving, and every day, we’re reminded of just how much generosity is out there. This year, an anonymous donor enabled us to hire a third team member and start a podcast. We thank that donor daily.
But the massive corporations taking part in Giving Tuesday aren’t anonymous. They want positive PR, and for that they deserve serious scrutiny.
Take Verizon. For Giving Tuesday, the Verizon Foundation says it will contribute to three large nonprofits as directed by the votes of Verizon workers. The company calls it giving back and “giving voice” to employees.
Call me cynical, but I bet most Verizon workers would have preferred more voice and fewer givebacks in their contracts. Over the last decade Verizon’s forced concessions on everything from wages to pensions to job security and the right to organize. Giving Tuesday’s nice, but Verizon workers give back every day.
It’s the same with Google. Google’s co-hosting a Giving Tuesday “Hangout-a-thon” for charities and socially conscious businesses. Lovely, but if it had a real social conscience, Google would let less of its wealth hang out in tax shelters. Last year, Google dodged about $2 billion in income taxes by funneling revenues into a Bermuda shell company. What it gives on Tuesday will be pennies on what it’d owe if it were to pay its fair share on tax day. And poor taxpayers might need less charity.
At Microsoft, well, at Microsoft, they’re matching dollar for dollar the contributions given to a group of youth charities on Giving Tuesday. It must be some mistake, but I’ve read the site five times and it seems to me that the tenth-most profitable corporation in the world has set a goal for the GivingTuesday campaign of just $50,000.
As the Verizon Foundation puts it, on Giving Tuesday “giving back has never been easier.” For huge corporations, it’s also never been cheaper.
For more qualms about charities, check out my interview with Peter Buffett, who says philanthropists like himself should aim to put themselves out of business. You can see all GRITtv’s interviews, free at www.GRITtv.org. And if you are that anonymous donor, thank you again. Anyone out there want to fund that staff person for a second year? For more information on Giving Tuesday, go to GivingTuesday.org.
Allison Kilkenny reports on the arrests of activists during Black Friday protests against Walmart.