Sometimes bad public relations leads to good news. While most companies and brands truly deserve help when their name is being dragged through the mud, there are a few most folks would just as soon see gone. Case in point, a pair of sham cancer charities that stole tens of millions from duped donors.
The charities – including Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services – have closed their doors. In addition, the principle leader, James Reynolds, Sr. has been banned from managing charitable assets for life, and he will be forced to surrender some of his personal assets.
Good news … followed by a dose of bad. Donors should not expect to see any of their cash again. They will have to be happy with the feeling they got giving the money, even though it never reached its destination. As part of a settlement agreement, the companies have agreed to permanently disband. Their assets will be liquidated.
That insult to injury is one of the hardest things for donors to stomach. They gave their hard-earned money to a cause they wanted to support, and, not only is that charity gone, but the cause won’t ever receive their money – and they can’t get it back to give it to a more reputable nonprofit.
Worse, when these stories hit the news it causes well-meaning people to be leery of supporting even the most legitimate charities. Every time a sham nonprofit gets busted, all the truly good guys have to redouble their positive public relations efforts just to stave off any unmerited guilt by association.
It may not be fair, but it is necessary. Nonprofits that wish to maintain good reputations and promote their legitimacy must have a team dedicated to putting out a strong, proven, positive message, even when they have done nothing to merit doubt or suspicion.
Consider what many military nonprofits are going through in the aftermath of the Wounded Warrior Project PR crisis. Even people unfamiliar with the situation know something bad went down there. What they may not know is that the charity took immediate action to correct any organizational issues. They are working to rebuild trust, but, if they want people to listen, that message needs to be louder and stickier than the scandal. The same is true for cancer charities in the wake of this scandal … even and especially if they’ve done nothing wrong.