• Those who know me well, know that I am extremely passionate about non-profit organizations. Giving back is in my blood. I’ve worked with at-risk youth teaching pre-employment skills and I’ve managed outreach and assistance programs to help low-income individuals get a hand up, not a hand out (the programs I was involved with ranged from life skills classes, to energy assistance, to creating stronger families, food bank services, programs to provide support to grieving children and more).

    I’ve managed to combine my passion for giving and my natural ability as an expert marketer to give back when I can. During a stint as board chairperson, I helped a non-profit organization gain more marketing exposure, triple revenue, become a Twin County United Way member and hire their first paid employee. While I’m proud of these accomplishments I don’t talk about them a lot. Not because they are not important — I know giving back is important — but because I didn’t do any of that work to receive any special recognition. Most people who give, give from the heart because it’s the right thing to do. But, I wonder if we should be having more discussions about the importance of giving and setting clear examples for others?

    This brings me to the controversy surrounding ABC’s Secret Millionaire program. First I’ll start by saying I LOVE the show. I am so tired of reality TV that doesn’t have a heart or purpose I could just scream (instead of screaming I don’t tune into those programs). I haven’t missed an episode of Secret Millionaire because it has heart, there is a purpose and it focuses on doing the right thing. The show is giving exposure to many non-profit organizations that viewers probably would not have heard of otherwise. My guess is, in addition to the money donated by the “Secret Millionaires” ,those organizations will get more donations based on increased awareness alone. By the way, the “Secret Millionaires” are doling out $100,000.00 of their own money. Anyway, the exposure for the non-profits and the heart of the people involved is impressive. I also applaud the courage of the “Secret Millionaires” who have agreed to come forward and give publicly. It takes courage and it’s brining up some BIG issue surrounding money for people. I even had a few people lambaste me on social media because I’m so supportive of the show (I deleted their posts – hee).

    While I would agree that giving solely to get exposure is wrong– I don’t believe for a minute that any of the “Secret Millionaires” agreed to expose themselves in this way solely to gain publicity. That can easily be achieved with marketing and advertising techniques that can cost WAY less than $100,000.00.

    Right now, Ali Brown is under fire from some for giving in the spotlight on ABC’s Secret Millionaire. Knowing her personally and knowing how this experience has changed her life I don’t support the naysayers.

    I’d like to hear your take. So, feel free to weigh in here. Ali is an expert blogger for Forbes and she recently wrote about her experience with Secret Millionaire here. So feel free to visit Forbes and share your thoughts, too. http://blogs.forbes.com/alibrown/2011/03/22/secret-millionaire-money-giving-tv-and-emotions-run-wild/

    Lisa Manyon is "The Business Marketing Architect" a content and copywriting strategist for mission-driven entrepreneurs. She's the creator of the NEW marketing model for success (as seen in Inc. Magazine) that's changing the way people market today. She specializes in powerfully communicating your marketing message to increase results via Manyon Marketing Web Makeovers, website copy packages and content strategies to effectively market your business. She offers a free Copywriting Action Plan and marketing resources on her award winning blog. Her consulting and coaching is known to help produce million dollar results www.writeoncreative.com/blog


    23 responses to “Giving in the Spotlight ~ The Secret Millionaire Controversy”

    1. Lisa, I believe those of us who have been financially blessed have a responsibility to give, and I am honored to be in a position to give back to the community I live in and to people who have not had the opportunities or good fortune that I have. There are times I give anonymously, and there are other times I give publicly so that others can get inspired and join in too. If everyone gave privately, think how ineffective food drives, relays for life (which I am doing with my employees), matching donations, and other similar events would be! I agree that Secret Millionaire is bringing attention to people and organizations that would never get it otherwise. I have no doubt that this show is inspiring others to give — to these organizations and to others.
      And, quite frankly if this increases the millionaires’ influence and even their wealth, I have no doubt they will be able to positively impact even more people — though their businesses and through their charity!
      Thank you for your brave blog, Lisa. Stay strong against the naysayers!

    2. Lisa Manyon says:


      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I believe we all have a responsibility to give back regardless of our status. I was really moved by the woman in the 1st episode of Secret Millionaire who was donating her time at the Love Kitchen because that was what she could give. If more people acted in service that way — regardless of financial status, the world would truly be a better place.

      I resonate with your point about sometimes giving anonymously and other times giving, in a sense, to lead the way. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Some people don’t even think about giving and others who do give in silence have been taught not to “brag” about it. A small shift in thinking would allow these same people to lead giving efforts (perhaps not on national TV but within their own sphere of influence and circle of friends). LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! your point about how private giving would negatively impact food drives, relays for life, etc.

      I think it’s time to break the chains of “societal norm” and just do it. I’m proud of the brave people who are doing just that and send them lots of love as they experience the mixed emotions from the confused masses.

      I’m also delighted to see reality TV take a turn towards higher quality programming and messaging.

      Write on!~


    3. The only way to live is to LIVE OUR LEGACY – so many people wait until they are gone to bequeath a gift – I agree that giving should be brought to the forefront and discussed more often!
      Heidi Alexandra
      The Leading Ladies Advocate

    4. Sue Painter says:

      Like you, I have enjoyed seeing what some people are calling “positive change TV.” There will always be naysayers, usually fear-based for one reason or another. I say, if people want to give, they should give. Most universities have buildings named after the people who gave the money to have the building built and no one seems to think THAT is an issue. 🙂

    5. Lisa ~

      I had no idea that Ali and/or the program was under fire for the reasons that you mentioned. We always know we’re doing the rigth things when we push a few buttons along the way. Yogi Bahjan says a message from a master teacher (if they are truly a master) should feel like sandpaper on the skin from time to time…..looks like Ali has achieved that threshold. Go Ali…woohoo!

      much love,

      • Lisa Manyon says:


        Some people like to lash out at others because of the turmoil they feel inside. It’s easier to criticize then look within. I always tell people to remember when pointing the finger at anyone, you always have three fingers pointing back at you. So, it’s good to think about what’s REALLY bothering you. (not you, but people who point fingers). 🙂

        Write on!~


    6. What? Can we not appreciate the act of giving without scrutiny? The Secret Millionaire Show has brought to me personally inspiration and opened my mind to new possibilities. And heck it just feels good to watch good TV for a change. I agree with Sue Painter on this one. There will always be naysayers.

    7. On the path to success, I think it is so important for each of us to define what success means to us personally. At first it can mean to pay the bills, and then as the foundation strengthens success can evolve into leadership and contribution. In my experience those are very high levels of success.
      To include giving in your success definition is beautiful!

      • Lisa Manyon says:


        Fabulous points. Success is relative. One of the things that really touched me during the 1st episode of The Secret Millionaire was the volunteers at The Love Kitchen. Many were giving their time and being of service because that is what they could give. We sometimes forget that not all giving comes in the form of money and often the gift of time is just as, if not more, powerful. 🙂

        Write on!~


    8. Hi Lisa,

      I support you in this post and bringing this issue to light. As leaders it’s our responsibility to shine our light and that includes sharing that light in all it’s many forms with others… money is simply one manifestation of that light.

      Societal norms have highlighted many negatives about money, but like everything, the flipside is equally bright and that’s the side I choose to focus on and use to do the most good.

      Following your heart and making people uncomfortable is a great indicator of the highest path. Discomfort (naysayers) registers higher than indifference and is the bottom rung for change.


      • Lisa Manyon says:


        Thanks for weighing in and providing such wonderful food for thought to the discussion!!! You are exactly right about making people uncomfortable. It forces change and growth even when people are resistant. 🙂

        Write on!~


    9. Controversy, smontroversy! Anything successful is going to rattle some trees. I’ve worked on all sides of philanthropy — from fundraiser to inner circle for a billionaire philanthropist to serving on charitable boards to running my own nonprofit to being a philanthropist myself — and all I can say is: KEEP GIVING. Give from your heart. #thatisall. ? Katherine.

    10. Jenny Fenig says:

      Let the negative peeps be negative. I choose to ignore that kind of thinking. How to give is such a personal decision … let those generous souls do what feels right to them (and not let any naysayers get them down).

      Giving is one giant loop of love. Let’s never lose sight of the big picture.

    11. Mitch Tublin says:

      Another angle on this topic is the messages we pass on to our children. My kids watched the Secret Millionaire shows with us too. They found the whole concept and the results captivating! In this era with all of the media options and things thrown at the younger set – they get it! How cool is that?

      • Lisa Manyon says:


        I love that you are including your children in this and creating family time. It is not surprising that you’d be setting such a stellar example.

        Way to go!~

        Write on!~


    12. Lisa
      I’m so glad you bring this up – I too did not know Ali was getting flack. Quite crazy! Giving is giving, the show is great, it’s inspiring, it’s getting exposure for the non-profits in particular and creating awareness around giving in general! I love the show and commend Ali and the others for doing it, being vulnerable, being real and being so generous!

      • Lisa Manyon says:

        Hi Trudy,

        I don’t think it’s only Ali. I think the show in general is under fire and Ali touched on that on the Forbes.com blog.

        In the world of philanthropy, public giving has been considered taboo. I think we need to break the societal norm to educate and pave new ways. I support the Secret Millionaire because they are helping so many worthy caused get more recognition and in turn I bet donations are up. Now there’s a way to really pay it forward.

        Write on!~


        Write on!~


    13. Lisa,

      Great post! The cynical part of me wonders if the naysayers are practicing what they preach. That is to say, are they giving generously of their time, talents and treasure to those organizations that they believe make a difference? Who cares if it is given in public or in private? As long as it is given!


      • Lisa Manyon says:

        Hi Terry,

        I think it’s easy for people to criticize instead of take action and make a difference. (as I mentioned in another response — those pointing the finger should stop and take note that they have three fingers pointing back at them and that’s a clear sign to examine motives and internal wiring). 🙂

        I’m excited to see TV with a real message and not just a bunch of fluff.

        Write on!~


    14. All I can say is you can’t please everyone all the time – as long as you are being true to yourself, you’re on the right track…

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