Over the past two decades, charitable giving by U.S. companies has declined at an alarming rate, dropping to 15-year lows in the early 2000's and descending even lower to date.
Despite the fact that overall charitable giving by companies has decreased, what has increased is what is known as "cause-related marketing."
In other words, companies will strategically engage in philanthropy as a form of public relations, increasing their brand exposure in ways that will provide positive impressions among consumers as well as increasing employee morale.
While there may be some good that is done through the charitable contributions of companies who are engaging in this form of marketing, it has begun to come off as inauthentic.
According to the Harvard Business Review, cause-related marketing may lead to an overall sense of cynicism on behalf of the public, and can also serve as a distraction from the overall goals of the charity involved.
In other words, there's a difference between true generosity and self-aggrandizing, self-serving charity that often masquerades as philanthropy.
It's not just corporations that can struggle with this dilemma. Those of us who claim to follow Jesus often find ourselves facing similar quandaries. When our donations of time, talent and treasure become something we do out of duty, or when we give in order to assert influence or control, we cease to be generous.
Remember, you can be doing very good things, but if you are doing them with negative energy, the results will not be life-giving for yourself, for any around you, or for the world.As followers of Jesus, we are called to be generous with ourselves and what we have for no other reason than we should do so as a response to the generous grace of God toward us. Theologian Walter Brueggeman puts it like this:
The world teaches us to be selfish and stingy and to look out for ourselves. But gospel love is grounded in the conviction that all we have is a gift from God who has been generous with us and we are invited to practice generosity alongside the God of the gospel.Be generous today and every day going forward. Give of yourself and what you have freely, without compunction and without an agenda. Practice generosity alongside God, joining God in God's generous work of redeeming and rescuing, restoring and resurrecting.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.