How not to do philanthropy
"Most Well-known and Beloved Chinese Role Model" and generously-minded rich person, Chen Guangbiao (above), demonstrated yesterday why the world needs philanthropic advisors. Chen took out an ad in the Times last week to invite 1,000 "poor and destitute" Americans to lunch, where they would also be given an alleged $300. Lunch and cash, sounds pretty good, right?
Well, the luncheon actually happened: it was at the Central Park Boathouse, featured tuxedoed servers, beef fillet, and magic tricks, and was served to about 200 homeless clients of New York Rescue Mission. The Rescue Mission agreed to bring some of its clients to the Boathouse only if Chen did not actually hand out cash--instead, Chen made a large donation to the organization to support their programs: education, shelter, career training, and counseling. You know, the kinds of things that actually lift people out of poverty and homelessness.
The lunch guests, not being idiots, were suspicious about the $300 they would allegedly receive. They soon started to think they'd been deceived. The Times' article describes how Chen's ostensibly generous act quickly devolved into a deceptive, humiliating fiasco:
The homeless men and women shot to their feet, whooping and applauding.
"No he won't," Michelle Tolson, the mission's director of public relations, said. "The police will shut him down."
Officials from the Rescue Mission quickly brokered a deal with Mr. Chen's assistants, allowing him to hand $300 to several chosen homeless clients in a symbolic gesture. The clients, however, would have to return the money. [Ed: Oh My God.]
A trolley loaded with $100 bills appeared on the dais, and the homeless delegates were led to the stage, where they posed for the television cameras. Mr. Chen moved into the last portion of the program, launching into an awkward karaoke version of "We Are the World." But as he sang, word began to spread around the room that there was, in fact, going to be no broader cash disbursement.
"Very deceptive," grumbled Dennis Durant, 58.
As the event ended, several of the guests rushed the dais. "Stop lying!" one yelled at Mr. Chen. "We're human beings!" another shouted.
The security guards formed a cocoon around Mr. Chen as angry guests, and dozens of reporters, pressed in.
Throwing money around in front of truly poor people, as though a few hundred bucks is going to mean you don't have to live on the streets anymore. It's insulting, delusional, and demoralizing.
Chen wants to bring his philanthropy to Africa next.