Do NOT “Proceed”…

Camels on the beach of Oman

Camels on the beach of Oman

’Tis the Season, the invitations have begun to arrive and there, prominently printed, is that dastardly phrase, “…proceeds go to…”

I had thought I’d write about this before the beginning of the Season, but put it off, and now I’m reminded at how irritating this word, “proceeds” is to me. Frankly, I find the word intentionally misleading and lacking in integrity.

Years ago, more than 30 of them, when founding Friends of Oscar (now Academy of Friends) in San Francisco, it was the predominance of that word that inspired me to find a way to guarantee that 100% of the ticket price would go to the beneficiary charities. At that time, in better financial times, the event could be 100% underwritten such that the guarantee could be made.

Times have, indeed, changed, and it’s much more difficult, now, to attempt to make such a guarantee. Unfortunately, the use of this Word Without Honor continues to proliferate; and I believe it sheds a bad light on otherwise noble causes.

Seriously. Let’s say you just paid $100.00 for a ticket to an event, ostensibly for Charity. What is the difference between:

  • 100% of the proceeds will go to feed the homeless
  • 50% of the proceeds will go to feed the homeless
  • 25% of the proceeds will go to feed the homeless
  • a portion of the proceeds….
  • et cetera?


All of those statements can mean anything the producer wants them to mean.

The dictionary in this computer says that “proceeds” is “money obtained from an event or activity.”

“Proceeds” is disrespectful of and frankly insulting to your audience. Just what comprises “proceeds”? Profit? A percentage of the profit? Whatever’s left over after every entity, vendor and individual involved has taken their cut; or just what, exactly?

So, Producers of Events, out there; find another word. A word that actually means something. As the word, “proceeds,” is an essentially meaningless word, invented by some producer to give the impression that s/he is doing more than is, perhaps, reality.

Most people, in my occasional and informal surveys, assume it means…

  • “um, profit?”
  • “I dunno, everything after expenses?” “Which expenses, exactly…?” “Oh, I see your point…”

And so it goes; the impression of the word is of something noble. Upon examination, however, and with a little thought, people come to the realization that “proceeds” has no real and concrete meaning, thus can be used to mean anything.

In the name of simple Integrity, simply tell your audience what you mean; be clear as to just how much of the purchase price is going to the beneficiary of a given event or sale.

It’s simple respect. It will be respected. The candor will be rewarded, as you’re telling your audience that you can be trusted.

And, frankly, people will appreciate it. If what you are selling or charging is of value, allow the customer to know to exactly what level s/he is supporting the chosen recipient. Even if it is only $5.00 of the price of a $50.00 book, that’s still $5.00 more than would otherwise support that charity were the book not bought. If you are comfortable with that, if the buyer or patron is comfortable with that, all is good.

I’m a strong proponent of clarity and transparency. People appreciate transparency. And, if customers don’t come, that’s good information for the seller.

If, on the other hand, one is trepidatious about sharing the precise amount per purchase being donated; that might be an opportunity for re-evaluation. Using the truth in seeking charitable donations is doing business with full integrity.

Frankly, when I receive an invitation and see anything along the lines of

“…proceeds will go to…”

It goes, all right; directly into the trash.

IMHO, someone is hiding something when that word is used.

Find a better word: tell the truth.

Happy Thanksgiving and Caveat Emptor.

My eBook, “imho” for iPad and now OSX is still free, worth every penny and still available for download from Apple’s eBook store and iTunes. Read the reviews; read the book!

7 thoughts on “Do NOT “Proceed”…

  1. Your point so well taken, Kile. Whenever I see “proceeds” in a philanthropic context, I know that the intent is to obfuscate the actual money flow. And is “obfuscate” a curmudgeonly verb, or what?

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