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Ethics in Fundraising

Ethics in Fundraising was the topic for last night’s #Fundchat. (#Fundchat is a Twitter chat that takes place every Wednesday night 9:00e.)  Given that participants are limited to 140 characters or less – it was a lively discussion.  Here were the 8 questions that the group discussed:

  1. Does your organization embrace the Donor Bill of Rights (or similar)? How do you underscore its importance with your fundraisers?
  2. What checks are in place at your organization to ensure ethical decision-making in fundraising?
  3. Are ethics discussed regularly within your team, senior management, board, with donors?
  4. If your organization has a Gift Acceptance Committee, who sits on it and how often does it meet?
  5. “What’s the big deal if I take a personal gift from a donor? Isn’t it rude, and harmful to the relationship, to say ‘no’?”
  6. Why shouldn’t fundraisers work on commission?
  7. What does your team do to share and learn from potentially ethical issues?
  8. When confronted with an ethical dilemma in fundraising, what is your decision-making process and who is at the table? Is this guided by a formal policy or an informal practice?

These are all great questions for your management team – everyone should be on the same page as to where the organization stands and how to best deal with situations that fall into the gray area.

The Donor Bill of Rights states:

PHILANTHROPY is based on voluntary action for the common good.  It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life.  To ensure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the not-for-profit organizations and causes they are asked to support, we declare that all donors have these rights:

  1. To be informed of the organization’s mission, of the way the organization intends to use donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.
  2. To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities.
  3. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements.
  4. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.
  5. To receive appropriate acknowledge and recognition.
  6. To be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.
  7. To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature.
  8. To be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors.
  9. To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.
  10. To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.

The Donor Bill of Rights was developed by:

  • Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)
  • Association for Healthcare Professionals (AHP)
  • Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
  • Giving Institute: Leading Consultants to Non-Profits
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