As fundraisers, we uphold the AFP Code of Ethical Standards and the Donor Bill of Rights. Translating those standards into our everyday practices is crucial for our profession. Here are a few true examples I have seen in my career when I’ve had to invoke those standards.
Years ago, I worked at a university and would visit one of our most loyal donors. He was a retired physician and a very generous donor. He was an octogenarian and lived in an assisted living center. I always made sure I included another person in our visits. Why? The doctor always wanted to send me off with a check. He would even ask me to fill out the check and amount, and then he would sign it. I would explain I was there to share updates and ask about him, nevertheless, he always wanted to make a gift. Having another person there avoided the perception that I was exerting undue influence on him.
I didn’t want to exploit the donor’s relationship.
Advocating for Donors’ Intent
Several times during my fundraising career, I had to carefully balance the needs of the organization with the donors’ wishes. Sometimes, they clashed. I’m sure I frustrated a boss or two along the way when I explained the donor didn’t wish to contribute to a specific funding initiative. I also didn’t want to get a “go-away gift” from a donor.
I had to ensure that contributions are used in accordance with donors’ intentions.
As a major gift officer, I tried to stay organized with my donor visits and entering call reports in a timely manner. One major rule of thumb was to never entered private, confidential information into the donor database. The donor might have confided in me about a health issue or personal situation. If that information might be relevant to the nonprofit and a future gift, I would include the sentence: “Check with Michelle for details.” I never put anything into a donor’s record that I wouldn’t show to the donor.
I always protect the confidentiality of all privileged information relating to the provider/client relationships.
Ethics are woven into the fabric of our daily fundraising efforts. The newsworthy headlines about a donor’s gift gone awry do happen but I’ve found our profession’s ethical standards are as much a part of our work as the donor cycle. We are trusted fundraising professionals and we must always be donor centric and uphold our ethical standards.
Michelle Crim, CFRE
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