Blackbaud's cloud for 'social good' serves customers that work against human rights

Devin Coldewey

Blackbaud offers enterprise tools ostensibly in a campaign to support social good, but the company also provides services to far-right organizations the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Security Policy, TechCrunch has discovered.

Blackbaud describes itself as "the world's leading cloud software company powering social good," and collects revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars from that business. Nothing about that mission is partisan, and good can of course be accomplished by groups all across the current American political spectrum.

But while conservative causes are by no means excluded from the category, the far-right stances of Heritage and especially those of CSP are difficult to square with even the broadest interpretation of social good.

The decades-old Heritage Foundation has been behind lobbying efforts against climate change action, equal rights for LGBTQ Americans and immigration modernization efforts. It has worked on behalf of the oil and tobacco industries, opposed health care reform and recommended the likes of Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt to the administration.

Google recently scuttled an advisory committee on AI that included Heritage's president after overwhelming criticism that they had essentially endorsed the think tank's policies.

Google’s anti-trans controversy is the latest case of big tech overcorrecting to the right


According to GLAAD, Heritage "has made it a focused mission to stop all laws protecting on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." This alone makes it a poor match for a company that just weeks ago said in celebration of Pride that "we want to underscore that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights."

Yet according to documents reviewed by TechCrunch, Blackbaud collects about $180,000 in annual revenue from the Heritage Foundation and has worked with them for about 15 years.

The Center for Security Policy is a more extreme case. Designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, CSP has pursued a hardline anti-Muslim stance for years. It publishes reports saying jihadists are infiltrating the U.S. government and was commissioned to perform polling to show support for Trump's Muslim travel ban. A CSP executive was hired by John Bolton to serve in the administration and later left to rejoin the anti-Muslim organization as its head.

Image Credits: Blackbaud

One recent study warns of a Muslim plot "even more sinister" than the widespread sexual abuse revealed in the #MeToo era: "Sharia-supremacists are insinuating themselves into script-writing, Hollywood 'consulting,' film production, and even financial scholarships designed to facilitate young Muslims’ penetration of the entertainment industry."

The documents show a smaller contract with CSP, amounting to about $11,000 in annual revenue.

Blackbaud records show interactions with both companies within the last month or so; these are current contracts. Neither Heritage nor CSP responded to requests for comment, and Blackbaud would not confirm they are customers as a matter of policy.

"Blackbaud provides cloud software, services, data intelligence and expertise to a wide spectrum of registered 501c3 organizations and companies that are lawfully conducting business. Those organizations are diverse in their missions and belief systems, but we remain committed to building the best software to support all who are truly doing good in achieving their missions," the company said in a statement. It then referred me to a recent blog post entitled "EQUALITY."

While doing business with a couple of bad actors doesn't negate Blackbaud's work with other organizations actually working for the social good, the discrepancy bears highlighting given the company's virtue-first brand. If the concept of social good they are working with is mutable enough that it includes hate groups, other organizations might think twice about trusting that message.

At times like the present, companies are being called on to not just say they are dedicated to things like human rights, anti-racism and other causes, but to demonstrate it and respond to criticism. According to Blackbaud:

"Racism and acts of hate strip people of basic human rights and defy the very principles of what 'good' stands for. We condemn racism and discrimination and seek solutions to end the suffering in our communities and world.

Equality must be more than a motto. It must be a promise to each other and the world."

By espousing equality on one hand and making millions from those who oppose it on the other, it may be fairly questioned whether that promise is being kept.

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