What to do about Useful Money from Bad People

Useful Money from Bad People

A rather despicable fellow named Jeffrey Epstein donated large amounts of useful money to any number of philanthropic causes and these gifts are now causing problems for those who received them. People are returning useful money and resigning from their positions, or being asked to do so. What I’d like to examine is the nature of philanthropic money in general.

Many of the people who donate to causes are not the greatest people in the world. Certainly, Epstein is viler than most but the question remains the same. As an example, let’s imagine you are the financial officer of a charitable organization and you have strong views on religion. Perhaps you are an Atheist or perhaps you are a Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, Jew, or Hindu. You are offered a large amount of useful money from someone who has a completely different belief system than you. Do you take that money knowing it will contribute to doing what you perceive to be good? What if the person has a criminal record? What if they are giving the money in order to improve their reputation because of some misdeeds in the past?

While my question is hypothetical the reality exists to the tune of billions of dollars in charitable donations. The events surrounding Epstein are forcing the financial operators of these organizations to ask themselves this very question. Should I refuse the donation because of the nature of the person who is giving it? Does the money, and the good that is done with it, override my concerns about the source? The money given by such a person intermingles with the money given by many better people and helps us fulfill our mission. Should I deny a child from Make a Wish their wish because I don’t like the person who is giving the money? Doesn’t that just hurt the child?

This is no idle question, if organizations turn down money from disreputable or unaligned donors, they will have less money to complete their mission. Those who would benefit instead go without. There are no easy answers here but I will not shirk from a conclusion simply because the question is complex and difficult.

I’ll happily tell you what I would do were I in charge of such a charity. Not that my decision is proper for anyone else, it is right for me and me alone.

I’d take the money from any source, even if Epstein were alive today in order to give it. I’d also be completely honest about my distaste for such a horrible person. I’d highlight the donation in my monthly and annual literature. I’d speak loudly to the stakeholders in the charity about why I took the money. About how the vile criminal Epstein was attempting to restore his reputation through the donation and that I wanted nothing to do with him other than cashing the check. I’d consider re-donating a goodly portion of it to help his many victims and organizations devoted to helping them and those like them.

Perhaps you disagree and I respect your right to do so. I can certainly understand why you would.

Tom Liberman

Activism for the Inactive


Or … how I eased my conscience by curing cancer, stopping child molestation, bringing down a brutal dictator, and wishing my mom happy birthday all in less than thirty seconds.

While having a delicious burger and fries from Five Guys and Fries with a young co-worker the conversation drifted to his social media inundation with promotions for the movie Kony 2012. The documentary movie is designed to put pressure on a brutal African dictator for his role in enslaving children for use as soldiers and sex workers.

I’m not a low picking fruit sort of fellow so I’m not going to spend any time talking about what a vile character is this Kony fellow nor express outrage at his activities. What I question is how much does social media activism actually accomplish? Does it help a cause or hurt it?

Does Social Media Activism Do Anything?

I’ll end the suspense right away, I don’t know. The way to find out is to put some metrics to it. Compare similar causes one of whom is highly publicized on the social networks and one who is not and determine who raises the most money and gets the most volunteer hours. See if the highly publicized causes are filled with fraudulent behavior more so than those less publicized.

Am I really a Social Activist for Clicking and Sharing

I will say this. I get a post about how someone is suffering in some way almost weekly and would I please share if I want to support the cause. I don’t. I have mentioned my own family’s trouble with cancer here in my blog but I don’t post support messages and ask people to share or like. I did donate money to a chess marathon for breast cancer by Goose.

I perceive posting on Social Media as pretending to do something without actually doing anything. My young friend would call those who post such things Brazilian Hipsters. He tried to explain the concept to me, but I think I’m too old. It’s apparently a terrible insult. I do agree with the concept if you share a few posts and say, “I’ve helped” then you are in need of some insults.

Still, I’m not totally opposed to posting on social networks if it brings money or volunteer time to that worthy cause. Beware those who intend to defraud are well in tune with the Social Media phenomenon and I’d be somewhat wary of donating to the Cause Celebre of the moment.

The Activism I think you should Undertake

Instead of reposting, commenting, sharing, or liking a post; donate some money, or better yet donate some time to a worthwhile cause. One problem with donating money is you have to be certain the charity is actually giving most of that money to those it purports to help. There is a tremendous amount of fraud in the charity business, fodder for another post I think, and you have to do your due diligence.


So, not much outrage here in the end. But don’t fool yourself. By promoting some social media cause, you aren’t actually doing anything to help. If you feel strongly about a cause, then think about investing some time and truly making a difference.

And for those of you, like my young friend, annoyed by an endless stream of requests to help one cause or another; don’t worry about not sharing. You’re not bad person.

Tom Liberman