How Industry Manipulates Non-profits



How Industry Manipulates Non-profits

Many large nonprofits have been effectively neutralized by industry manipulation. Personnel changes and shifting goals can alter a non-profit making them more willing to listen to industry. They typically come into being to solve a particular problem, but over time, increasing the revenue stream may become the biggest goal by far. Eventually, solving the original problem becomes an unacceptable threat to their own continuing existence. The money becomes more important than any meaningful solution. Their focus shifts towards survival so they begin to work against the very goals they used to fight for.

Industries can co-opt potential adversarial non-profits ( and individuals ) into becoming third-party mouthpieces for corporate interests. Industry encourages this shift through financial incentives and "partnerships". Many non-profits begin cooperating with industry and become a willing accomplice. No matter how idealistic they may sound, they will maintain the major problems while making it look like they are doing good. You don't see groups like Greenpeace, the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and other million dollar non-profits stopping Monsanto, or controlling GMO's. They soak up most of the charitable donations but they don't apply it in a meaningful way because they don't want to solve the big problems anymore. They work to create minor changes and herald them as big accomplishments, but the fundamental problems remain so their non-profit will always be needed.

This article explains some of the tactics in the environmentalist arena, but it applies to all activist issues everywhere.

Flacks to Greens: "Grow Up and Take the Cash"

"The February 1994 issue of O'Dwyer's PR Services Report gives a candid description of the PR industry's strategy for encouraging sectors of the environmental movement to enter into "partnerships" with major polluters. Companies have found that money can buy them good will from the environmental movement. This helps them improve their reputation among members of the public.

On the other side of the "partnership," O'Dwyer's observes, "non-profit groups are beginning to realize that private sector cash can increase an organization's clout and bankroll membership building programs."

O'Dwyer's interviewed Dale Didion of Hill & Knowlton in Washington, DC, the nation's third largest "environmental PR firm." Didion said companies are learning that they can "hire members of the environmental group's staff to help on certain projects. This is a tremendous benefit for a company that wants to have access to top green experts. Companies can avail themselves of talented researchers, scientists and analysts at very reasonable prices."

This cooperation actually hurts activist efforts. Those in the partnership "behave". They don't want to anger someone they want to work with. One PR firm explained it by saying that they won't sue you if they are working with you. Industry can also get intel from them on the activities within the activist movement. They become a valuable source of information that industry can use to thwart activist efforts.

O'Dwyer's suggested some "cost-free and virtually risk free" ways to "test the waters" when entering into a relationship: "Help them raise money. Offer to sit on their board of directors. That can open up a good symbiotic relationship." Another effective tool is for the company to bankroll a conference on a topic of mutual interest.

In Going Green, E. Bruce Harrison says that despite their formal nonprofit status, today's big environmental groups are first and foremost business ventures.

Some of the biggest and best-known green organizations-the Izaak Walton League, the National Wildlife Federation, and the National Audubon Society among them are receiving support,recognition and large cash contributions from corporate polluters."

To summarize their major tactics to defeat non-profits;
  • Use partnerships to encourage cooperation which weakens activist efforts
  • Use partnerships to collect intel on activists
  • Donate money to non-profits and help them raise money
  • Assist in creating conferences of mutual interest to influence them
So, what should activists do to prevent this from happening?
  • Keep the focus on fighting industry. Reject Divide and Conquer strategies.
  • No partnerships ( They are a ruse anyway )
  • Don't trust them.
  • In other words, be a non-profit that embraces frontline activism.
Today's opinion manipulation industry is a powerful giant, but like Goliath, it is a giant with a fatal weakness. When the public is educated about its techniques, it often loses its ability to mislead and manipulate.
Toxic Sludge is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry
Most of the studies presented are good studies. They are presented to shed light on the weak or fraudulent ones.