In 2012, George W. Bush charged $100,000 for a speaking at an event to raise funds for Helping a Hero. This article addresses the difficult issue of finding the right balance between promotions and nonprofit investments. .
Nonprofit organizations have fundraising events often. Many of them have more than one a year and what is donated pays for the majority of the organization’s efforts for the entire year. In 2012 when GWB spoke at the Hero’s event, funds raised were record-breaking and came to the tune of about $2.6 million. But, now detractors are focusing on publishing the much less significant number of the speaking fee.
The complaint, of course, is that someone is charging a fee to help a nonprofit organization. Newsflash – people do that all the time. Would anyone expect the caterer, or the location where an event is held to not charge for their services?
GWB’s normal fee for speaking at an event at the time was $250,000, so he had discounted the amount substantially. On top of that, the costs to him for speaking at that event are not known, so who’s to say if that fee is exorbitant or just covering expenses.
The charity is not complaining about the fees, in fact, they have praised Mr. Bush for bringing in such a large amount to benefit their charity. He was not in public office at the time he spoke, just a private citizen. So, who is complaining? CNN carried the report on their network, and a former member of the military who has benefited from the charity in the past with aid for his family and recovery after losing both hands during his military service in Afghanistan.
Most former POTUS’s earn large fees for speaking engagements. The fees may seem huge to the average American, but the average American would not have to cover many of the costs they do either.
The real PR news is the connection to making money from offering your services to a nonprofit. Should you do it or not? Would it be okay to charge your full fee so long as it is paid to another nonprofit that you influence or control? What is the acceptable level of profit a speaker should make from providing services to a nonprofit? Remember, this isn’t just about GWB, the standard you choose should be applicable to everyone … entertainers, caterers, wait staff, venue owners, and others.