McDonald’s Exploits Charity to Build Its Brand

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In an October 2013 report, public health lawyer and activist Michele Simon documents how the transnational burger colossus McDonald’s benefits from the Ronald McDonald House Charities brand, yet only disburses roughly 20 percent of the funding globally and ten percent locally.

The Ronald McDonald Houses operate internationally to assist financially beset families with shelter and everyday necessities. Simon explains that in 2012 McDonald’s brought in revenue of $27 billion but short changes those appealing for assistance from the in-house charity. McDonald’s supposed philanthropy is belied by the reality of the numbers. According to the report’s findings, McDonald’s charitable giving is 33 percent less than leading corporations. Further, McDonald’s spends almost 25 times as much on advertising as on charitable endeavors.

“I show how McDonald’s enjoys a huge public relations and marketing boost relative to how little money it donates,” Simon explains. “In fact, Ronald McDonald Houses report that the name causes many people to assume that McDonald’s provides 100 percent of the charity’s funds – and that this ‘common misperception’ is ‘absolutely confusing.’ In other words, the McDonald’s brand may be more of a liability than it’s worth.”

Simon also examines how McDonald’s employs the Ronald McDonald figure to target children in schools under the guise of charity. The benevolent front is used “as a shield against critics, to distract from its harmful business practices.”


Michelle Simon, “How McDonald’s Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children,” Alternet, October 30, 2013,

Student Researcher: Kaitlyn Kahn (Florida Atlantic University

Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)