Robert W. Wilson made billions of dollars as a tycoon on Wall Street who pledged to give away 70 percent of his wealth to charity before he passed away. He recently ended his life by suicide on the Monday before Christmas. By the time of his death, it was known that he only had about one hundred million dollars left to deplete his fortune.
It would be worth mentioning that he had suffered from a stroke months before his suicide, which may have been a factor in his decision to die. In reading most articles about the billionaire, you may make note that journalists have focused keenly on the contradictions in his life. For instance, he was obsessed with being successful, but he was frugal and gave unselfishly to charity. He believed in Catholic education and gave the church millions, yet lived as an Atheist. And, made no secret about the fact that he lived his life as a homosexual after his divorce from his wife of over 35 years.
All that is newsworthy, indeed. However, those very same contradictions listed show that their is no specific profile for what a donor should look like or how they give money. Although he may not have believed in God or a higher power, he apparently lived by some very key Christian principles. This highlights two main points to know when fundraising. One, know your donors and potential donors. And two, is it okay to accept donations from funders with completely different beliefs than your organization’s purpose?
It’s sort of bizarre that the Catholic church could take so much money from someone who does not believe in what they practice. The question to you should be, how do you determine what is a conflict of interest? The Catholic church has a lot of legal issues that they have to pay, churches to maintain and schools to keep open. So, you must applaud the fact that they are well aware of the business that they run. But, recognize the detriment this could do if this information was made public in a way that would hurt the membership in their churches. Would they be as effective? Who knows? But, there is a fine line that you as a nonprofit or community activist must find for yourself when accepting donations for your causes.
Wilson gave to charities like The Nature Conservancy, The Environment Defense Fund, ACLU, and The Inner City Scholarship fund.