Pop quiz: Who do you think funds the hundreds of Ronald McDonald Houses around the nation? McDonald’s right? Sort of, but not really. While McDonald’s gets 100 percent of the brand benefit from Ronald McDonald House Charities, the burger giant only provides about 20 percent of its funding globally. At the local level, it’s closer to ten percent, with some of that money coming from donation boxes at McDonald’s outlets, that is, from customers.
Confused? Wondering how a corporation that raked in $27 billion last year can be so stingy with its own charity? You’re not alone. In my new report, “Clowning Around with Charity: How McDonald’s Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children,” I show how McDonald’s enjoys a huge public relations and marketing boost relative to how little money it donates. In fact, Ronald McDonald Houses report that the name causes many people to assume that McDonald’s provides 100 percent of the charity’s funds – and that this “common misperception” is “absolutely confusing.” In other words, the McDonald’s brand may be more of a liability than it’s worth.
Little could be more important than giving families a comforting place to stay together during such stressful times. The cause’s importance, and the extent to which McDonald’s is serving versus exploiting that cause, is all the more reason for gaining a better understanding of the corporation’s involvement.
Despite McDonald’s claims of philanthropic generosity, the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric. The report’s findings include how McDonald’s philanthropic giving is 33 percent lower than leading corporations and that McDonald’s spends almost 25 times as much on advertising as on charitable donations.