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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Thursday, 28 March 2019 19:56

When Donations Come Back to Haunt You

Large donations by companies and family foundations provide the cornerstone for many prominent nonprofit organizations. But when those donations become shrouded in negative publicity, recipients must weigh their value against the damage to the organization’s own reputation.

A case in point is the wealthy and philanthropic Sackler family of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The recent deluge of opioid lawsuits is forcing a widespread reevaluation.

Several museums, including the Met’s Temple of Dendur, have been the targets of public protests with supposed overdose victims splayed on the ground surrounded by pill bottles and opioid prescriptions.

When public perception is at stake, does it matter whether the money came from illegal or controversial endeavors? Or is it just guilt by association? Either way, the optics are terrible.

How should an organization respond?