David Baines Leaves Too Many Questions Unanswered

UPDATE: Despite repeated enquiries, Mr. Baines never replied to my questions. I eventually received a short reply from Editor-in-Chief Patrica Graham, who said:

Mr. Baines did not lie and any suggestion to the contrary would be defamatory. In answer to your questions: The Vancouver Sun stands by the stories.

That’s not a particularly complete answer to my questions, but it does indicate that the Sun claims that Tom Williams is lying, and didn’t in fact offer to connect Mr. Baines with any of GiveMeaning’s donors.


Via Tom’s blog, I just read David Baines’s shoddy column on GiveMeaning, in which he snipes at this very worthy endeavour:

But every time a donation is made, GiveMeaning issues a tax receipt, which means Canadian taxpayers are subsidizing the donation. I think that, in such an unregulated environment, we have a responsibility to scrutinize all charitable endeavours to ensure that we are getting decent value for our dollar.

The piece is full of cheap shots, misrepresentation and lazy journalism. Here are a few questions I’m hoping Mr. Baines will address:

  • Mr. Baines claims that Tom “refused to identify any of these donors.” In his blog post, Tom says that he “offered for him to speak with some of GiveMeaning Foundation’s donors and yet he didn’t take me up on this.” Which is true, and if Tom is correct, why did Mr. Baines lie about it?
  • Early in the article Mr. Baines calls an anecdote that Tom tells “unconfirmable”. Later Mr. Baines writes: “My sense is that…most registered charities or foundations publicly report where they are placing their money.” Instead of relying on “his sense”, why didn’t Mr. Baines contact an expert in the field and confirm his assumption? It seems highly dubious to complain about a story being unconfirmable, and then not bother to check his own facts.
  • Along the same lines, Mr. Baines characterizes “many” of the GiveMeaning project charities as “extremely obscure”. Again, where’s the fact-checking on this? Mr. Baines names cites WILD ARC as one of these “extremely obscure” causes. I used this popular web search engine called ‘Google’, and discovered that it’s a BC SPCA wildlife rehab centre that’s been around for a decade and treated over 14,000 animals. The other charity that Mr. Baines names is a school in Africa with an office here in Delta. If Mr. Baines wanted to verify its scope, all he needed to do was pick up the phone and call the suburbs. That’s not to mention that leveling a criticism like ‘obscure’ at a charity is absurd. Most of the charitable good in the world gets done by charities that Mr. Baines (and you and I) have never heard of.
  • Finally, Mr. Baines suggests that GiveMeaning has been spending too much of its initial funding on administration. He rightfully trots out GiveMeaning’s annual reports, but he does so in isolation. Why doesn’t he contact similar organizations (I’m thinking here of, say, Kiva, PledgeBank and the like) to compare their startup budgets?

David Baines is a columnist, but that doesn’t absolve him from the responsibilities of his profession. I’ve sent a note to him asking that he respond to these questions. I’ve also CC’d his editor-in-chief, Patricia Graham. If you’re concerned about quality of his work on this article, I encourage you to email him at dbaines@png.canwest.com as well.


  1. Great post, for sure. At the least the title.

    Too many questions unanswered, and you’re not going there… I especially like how you avoid dealing with the substantive issues while you attempt to support your associate Tom Williams.

  2. Tom Williams doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Do your research. i have been burned and hope you watch your back. Barefoot n’ Ignorant knows what he’s talking about.

  3. I agree with the above two posters. Tom has scammed a lot of people in his past. Why is this time different?

  4. Great piece as usual.

    I was distracted by the sentence “David Baines is a columnist, but that doesn’t absolve him from the responsibilities of his profession.” I think your emotions may have been running pretty hot at that point — as mine likely would. No one would expect that to absolve him. The sarcasm may have been a bit awkward, or I missed the sentiment all together.

    I notice the permalink is actually David Baines Gets an F on Journalistic Integrity. Is the difference between permalink and softer post title on purpose?

    (Let me know if you need a hand upgrading WordPress)

  5. The irony here is unmistakeable. You’ve been schooled, Darren.

    Read the Sun’s three-part and growing series on scammer Tom Williams. Then see if you can pull yourself up to write something credible about your pal.

  6. Lloyd: Well, I’ve always had a sense that columnists don’t follow the same rules as journalists, in terms of research and fact-checking. That’s what I was referrring to.

    Yeah, I thought that first title was a bit harsh, so I changed it. I just forgot to change the post slug. And yes, I do need to upgrade my sundry blogs to the newest version of WordPress.

  7. The 3rd article today is pretty damning. I also don’t always agree with Baines’ approach and style (he’s a bit of a pompous cowboy at times), but it now appears he has direct corroborative evidence from ex NHL’er Paul Reinhart that Tom scammed him a few years ago out of a lot of money. Again, why is this time any different? In light of all the “smoke” regarding high personal salaries, unaccounted for costs and the obviously personal and financial issues that Tom Williams has, there seems to be at least a small fire somewhere. This guy should be banned from anything charitable and, based on his terrible business track record, should do himself and his investors a favor by closing up shop.

  8. there is another article today feb.2, sat vancouver sun. darren, read it and tell me there isn’t something fishy going on. you work with this guy?!

  9. Hi Darren,

    I don’t read newspapers much, but I can image that being a problem with some columns, though I’m sure they don’t like you generalizing 😉

    I mentioned the WP upgrade, because

    I only noticed this article, after reading your articles here and on northernvoice about “Seeking Tech-Oriented Non-Profits For Expo at Northern Voice”. Was it a conscience decision not to include GiveMeaning in that list?

  10. Lloyd: Nope. I specifically wanted to focus on NGOs that are really focussed on technology, instead of just being web-based. That said, I’ve exhausted my possibilities in the former case, and we’ve still got a couple of spots left. So, I’ll probably end up inviting GiveMeaning and a couple of other web-based NGOs after all.

  11. Oh, I think I see what you mean by NGOs really focused on technology, but I think NGOs that use social media well would be well received by NV participants — did I mention having NGOs there at all is a brilliant idea! Actually, GiveMeaning has a fairly poor social platform, but they are trying, and it would be an awesome opportunity for them to learn from the participants 😉

    Gah, I just noticed that I didn’t finish my thought in the last comment about the WP upgrade. I mentioned it because build into the core platform now allows you to change the permalink after publishing and it will take care of the redirecting for you — don’t have to worry about a 404.

  12. IMO, for the slant of your rant to be properly assessed, you should have advised your readers,at the time when you took up the cudgels for Tom Williams and GiveMeaning, that you to were a colleague of Tom’s at corporate GiveMeaning.


    UPDATE: Wow, le monde est tres, tres petite. Ms. Farrell is married to Tom Williams, my colleague at GiveMeaning.

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 at 10:11 am

  13. Dayo: I kind of thought that was obvious, given that I’ve mentioned him before, and he’s commented on my blog. Plus, we move in the same circles in Vancouver. Regular readers would know these points–I gather you’re not among them.

    Practically speaking, I’m not going to describe my relationship to every subject of every blog post I write. That’s what Google’s for, which you’ve illustrated nicely.

    But, to answer your implied question, I’ve met Tom a few times, as we’ve been at the same conferences and parties. I’ve been to his office once, to meet with him and a client of mine.

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