Recession, you say? No one has any money to give to the fire service. According to estimates from the Taft “Corporate Giving Directory” for 1991, one of a few information sources routinely used by professional fund-raisers:

  • Digital Equipment Corporation, the California-based computer manufacturer, gave S35 million last year, largely to universities, to encourage engineering education, computer literacy, and related programs.
  • Land O’Lakes, the Minnesota company known for its butter, in 1990 donated S750,000 in food and money to help the homeless and world hunger.
  • E.I. Du Pont de Nemours gave S28 million in 1990 for a wide range of education, health, arts, and community needs.
  • Union Carbide in Danbury, Connecticut, pitched in another S4.1 million for education, civil rights, and environmental projects.
  • Delta Airlines—in spite of the airline industry’s worst year in decades—gave $800,000 to higher education.

The directory goes on and on for hundreds of pages. Do these companies make contributions to promote their self interests? Sure. They have no choice. Companies are accountable to their owners, just as public agencies are accountable to taxpayers.

When a large computer companygives millions to promote engineering education, it is hoping to maintain a regular flow of well-qualified graduate engineers. When chemical companies contribute funds to environmentalist groups, they are hoping to demonstrate their concern.

Some industries have identified life safety as a cause worth supporting. Those that have should not have to risk criticism simply for trying to help.

Billions of dollars are contributed annually to important causes operated by smart, gracious, ethical people. It’s high time that the fire service developed the know-how and the manners—in some cases—to attract the money it needs to do the job we all need

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