Rutgers Ethics Professor Available to Discuss Dirty Money, Charitable Donations

Professor Joanne B. Ciulla, director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School–New Brunswick and Newark, is available to discuss the ethics of charitable giving and why donors and organizations may give. Ciulla recently wrote on the topic for Rutgers Business Review, using examples about charitable giving to Notre Dame Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Missionaries of Charity.

“Except in cases of anonymity, there is no such thing as a free gift,” said Ciulla. “Businesses and individuals have long used charitable donations to polish their image and sell products. Whom to take money from is tricky, especially in cases where the money starts clean but later turns out to be dirty because a donor or business does or has done something unethical or illegal.”

“When an individual or a business gives money to a charity, they engage in an explicit or implicit exchange. When corporations or other groups donate to non-profits, they usually do so because they want to contribute to society and create a positive image of their organization. While most give with good intentions, the standard of pure altruism may be too high. Businesses and individuals usually get something from giving. At a minimum, it makes them feel good. Implicit or explicit reciprocity does not necessarily make a gift unethical. However, the ethics of giving and receiving depend on what that reciprocity means and entails for both parties.” 

Ciulla is a pioneer in the field of leadership ethics. She is the former president of the Society for Business Ethics and the International Society for Business, Ethics, and Economics. 

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