General Motors is Healthy Enough to Be a Philanthropic Donor in Detroit Again

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February 28, 2011; Source: Daily Tell | As American taxpayers, we are all temporary owners in the mammoth corporations like General Motors that received billions in assistance through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Through TARP purchases, we own billions in GM preferred stock. (We also own shares of Chrysler. Ford turned down the opportunity for TARP bailout funds).

GM received $51 billion total through TARP, but has returned $23 billion, according to ProPublica. Chrysler has a commitment of $13 billion, with $11 billion disbursed so far. Did you know that your investment in GM had sparked a revival, making the automaker healthy enough to resume its philanthropic giving to major arts organizations in the Detroit area – $135,000 to the Michigan Opera Theatre, $75,000 to the Mosaic Youth Theatre, and others.

These numbers aren't quite what GM used to give annually to Detroit area cultural institutions prior to the economic downturn, about $1 million annually, but they count, especially for the Opera, which nearly shut down with the loss of the auto manufacturers contributions.

Unlike GM, Chrysler hasn't restarted its philanthropic programs. But Chrysler is spending taxpayer moneys in another way. It hasn't been able to give charitably, but it was able to purchase the most expensive commercial during the Super Bowl, starring Detroit native Eminem, and costing the company (and its U.S. taxpayer shareholders) something short of $9 million.

And both Chrysler and GM don't appear to be engaged in bailing out the Detroit library system (broke), the Detroit public schools (broker), or most of Detroit's nonprofits (doing heroic work to respond to the nation's perfect storm of economic calamity). We wonder when American International Group (AIG), one of the other non-bank TARP sinkholes, will return to its philanthropic agenda.—Rick Cohen

  • Tammy L Zonker

    Dear Rick,

    I’m a NPQ subscriber, follower and fan!

    I’m compelled to respond to this post. As a Detroit nonprofit fund raising practitioner, I am very grateful that on December 10th, 2010 General Motors Foundation announced a $27.1M gift to support United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s work on high school turnaround and early childhood education. Beyond financial support, GM Corporation is mobilizing their employee base to engage in volunteerism in these same schools and early learning communities.

    GM North America President, Mark Reuss has personally been instrumental and hands-on in this effort. It has truly been an honor and a career highlight to be a part of stewarding this gift.

    Likewise, I anticipate Chrysler will once again be a philanthropic leader as their profits continue to grow. Imported from Detroit was indeed a bold move to jump start that effort.

    All my best,
    Tammy Zonker

  • Tammy L Zonker

    Dear Rick,

    I’m a NPQ subscriber, follower and fan.
    I’m compelled to respond to this post as a Detroit fund raising practitioner.

    On December 10th, 2010 General Motors Foundation announced a $27.1M gift to United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s high school turn-around and early childhood development initiatives. This is the single largest gift in the 34 year history of the Foundation. Beyond the unprecedented gift, GM Corporation is mobilizing their workforce to volunteer in these same Detroit regional schools and early learning communities.

    General Motors North America President, Mark Reuss has been hands-on leading this effort as an economic development and workforce development strategy in our region…as well as a moral imperative. It has truly been a privilege and career highlight to steward this gift and to witness such extraordinary and inspiring leadership.

    Likewise, I believe Chrysler will restore their legacy of philanthropic leadership as company profits continue to rise. Clearly, the “Imported from Detroit” marketing message was a BOLD move towards that effort.

    I invite you to Detroit to view our city and philanthropic culture up close and personal.

    All my best,
    Tammy Zonker
    Senior Director, Corporate Relations & Strategic Initiatives
    United Way for Southeastern Michigan

  • rick cohen

    Dear Tammy: Thank you for the invitation. NPQ readers know that my allegiance to Detroit is long and deep. In my various NPQ writings mentioning Detroit, readers have discerned that I was a national vice president (basically in charge of strategic planning and in-house organizational technical assistance and problem solving) for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and spent lots of time working with the Detroit LISC program staff, with Detroit CDCs, and with Detroit-area foundations such as McGregor and Hudson-Webber. I also ran a program at LISC through which we helped municipal governments, and in Detroit, I brought a team of people into the City to help then Mayor Archer rethink the city’s community development process. Coming back to Detroit would be a pleasure, but we’d love to hear from you and your colleagues regarding new developments in Detroit that would be helpful and instructive for NPQ readers. Thanks so much.

  • RodelB

    Global financial turmoil has brought business enthusiasts to try the best technique they know to adapt with the existing challenges. One car company has been successful in its own field but still looking for some ways to improve or at least maintain its profit. As reported by the Automotive News, first-half profits for General Motors Company reached $6.3 billion. However CEO Dan Anderson said that it was not good enough. He announced that cutbacks will follow. Determined to recapture the lead in global sales, GM is currently aiming at Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG