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Is it appropriate, ethical and even legal for a private company to solicit donations from the public to benefit ONLY

employees? (Gensler Hurricane Help Gensler Houston, GoFundMe $75,000)

Gensler Architecture is the worlds largest AE firm, generating $1.4 billion in annual revenues and an estimated $100 million
profit. They are a highly respected and very successful firm. On August 28th this company initiated a campaign on soliciting donations from the public to assist some of their employees with disaster relief. The campaign
has generated donations from more than 500 people across the country and Gensler has agreed to match these 1:1, perhaps
generating some $150,000 in aid. At first glance, it appears to be a noble effort, and Im not suggesting any wrongdoing on
Genslers part, but, it is a mistake. The appeal requests that the public selectively support a specific group of individuals
Gensler employees that were impacted by the storm.

The tradition of charity in America is that we all help each other and organizations such as the Red Cross are generally the
recipients of contributions and are charged with the responsibility of distributing those funds based on need. While an
imperfect system, its does try to enable all of us the ability to help all of us. In that context, a private company suggesting
that instead of helping everyone, just help our employees is inappropriate, at the least. IRS Publication 3833 entitled
Disaster Relief clarifies the distinction Under federal law, an existing qualified charity generally must be given full control
and authority over the use of donated funds, and contributors may not earmark funds for the benefit of a particular individual
or family. And continues The group of individuals that may properly receive assistance from a tax-exempt charitable
organization is called a charitable class. A charitable class must be large enough or sufficiently indefinite that the community
as a whole, rather than a pre-selected group of people, benefits when a charity provides assistance. This charitable class is
large enough that the potential beneficiaries cannot be individually identified and providing benefits to this group would
benefit the entire community. And further Because of the requirement that exempt organizations must serve a charitable
class, a tax-exempt disaster relief or emergency hardship organization cannot target and limit its assistance to specific
individuals, such as a few persons injured in a particular fire. Similarly, donors cannot earmark contributions to a charitable
organization for a particular individual or family.

Clearly, the donations sought by Gensler, in this situation, are not charitable and therefore not tax deductible. IRS provides
guidance regarding Employer efforts When an employer-sponsored organization provides assistance to employees, certain
limitations apply that help to ensure that such aid does not result in impermissible private benefit to the employer. Individuals
can also help victims of disaster or hardship by making gifts directly to victims. This type of assistance does not qualify as a
tax-deductible contribution since a qualified charitable organization is not the recipient. Gensler is essentially asking the
public to make gifts to support exclusively their employees.

This raises ethical and practical questions about charitable efforts and need. During the recent Harvey Disaster, the world
witnessed selfless acts of kindness benefit both neighbors and strangers. Texans-helping-Texans grew to Americans-helping-
Texans. Everyone helping each other. Genslers appeal suggests that Texans-helping-Gensler or Americans-helping-Gensler
is appropriate it is not. CEO Andy Cohen posted this on his LinkedIn page promoting the campaign In response to Hurricane
Harvey in Houston, we are raising money for the Gensler families directly impacted by severe flooding. Donations to this fund
will go to help these families and their rebuilding efforts. Gensler will match all contributions and everything helps. There
is no reference on the GoFundMe campaign website informing donors this in NOT charity worthy of a tax-deduction, but
rather a gift to Gensler and its employees. If that disclosure were made, would the results differ? What would be the long-
term ramifications be if Employers could suggest their employees needs are greater than others and request that our
collective generosity go to them directly AND exclusively? The question is not whether this effort was wrong, on its face it
seems like a reasonable effort, but is it appropriate? Does it end the basic charitable idea that we all help each other, as fairly
as our charitable infrastructure can achieve, or do we make selective contributions/gifts to private companies?

Gensler should cancel this effort.

Author: Andrew West, Solutioneur Foundation. 512.924.2006

Gensler GoFundMe Campaign

IRS Publication 3833 Disaster Relief

CEO Cohens LinkedIn Appeal: