Dishonest Charities Should Provide Refunds to Upset Donors

Dishonest Charities Should Provide Refunds to Upset Donors

Photo Credit: Ali Akberali, Photographer

Giving is great, receiving is even better, but only when the interaction is based on transparency

Zoyeb Ehsan, Staff Writer

Giving to charity is a good deed, but what about taking money back from a charity after we’ve already donated? Should we be allowed to do so?

Sharon Osborne requested her money back from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization after donating almost a million dollars, arguing that she didn’t support the movement anymore. This is understandable as BLM has been involved in various scandals. For instance, there were headlines about the organization’s decision to buy a 6 million dollar home in California, with people arguing that the organization was sorely mismanaging funds. Although I don’t know the logistics of the case, I doubt that this 6 million dollar home was truly necessary.  

In general, I would say that if a charity or organization is implicated in scandals, that justifies a refund. It shows that the charity has failed its donors and has failed to live up to its mission. Furthermore, I’d argue it’s a crime for a charitable organization to spend its money in such a dishonest way while purporting to spend that money for honorable causes.

Other than scandals, there is also the question of ideological concerns. For instance, Osborne said that she didn’t support BLM’s idea that “white lives don’t matter.” This is definitely grounds enough to stop supporting an organization, but would one deserve their money back? I think it depends.

On one hand, someone could demand a refund if they feel that the organization totally went back on a promise it had made. For instance, if an organization says it will support a certain project and then decides to waste it on something else, I think that’s grounds enough to demand money back.

However, I think one could argue that donors have some responsibility as well. For instance, BLM could argue that they didn’t force Osborne to donate her money. Osborne already gave her money to the organization, why should BLM be forced to return it? They could argue that Osborne should have looked more into the organization to determine whether it would be a suitable donation for her to make before deciding to donate such a large sum of money. I think this is fair to ask of donors. 

So then should an organization be forced to refund money? They should be forced to only if they falsely and deceptively advertise themselves. If they tell blatant lies and do the opposite of what they promise, they should provide a refund. If, however, the organization always had a certain culture and a donor later finds that they do not agree with the charity’s culture, then I’d argue that the donor should have been more careful and done their research. 

Think about sugary cereal brands. They might say something like, “made with real honey,” but it’s still on the consumer to be critical about whether or not it’s actually natural. The consumer wouldn’t be justified in asking for a refund after learning it’s actually filled with chemical preservatives. So then should charities be viewed the same way?