top of page

Ethics of Opting Out in Fundraising

Fundraising methods are changing all the time. New crowdsource fundraising methods like text-to-give, peer-to-peer, and Go Fund Me appeals are now more commonplace. Acceptable practices are also changing. I remember when asking donors to cover credit card fees was unacceptable, now it’s customary to include this option. Donors know that paying the credit card fee means more of their donation goes to the cause they support. The important point is to give the donor the option.

Another lesser-known fundraising tactic is including opt-out checkboxes on online donation forms, known internally as a “money bomb.” If a donor doesn’t click the op-out box, they are passively signing up for future automatic contributions.

While this practice is commonplace in political campaigns, some national nonprofits are adopting the opt-out tactic to automatically increase a donor’s recurring gift. While this technique is legal, is it ethical? No, it is not. Is this practice violating the donor’s original gift intent? Yes, it is. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethics states that fundraisers must “obtain explicit consent by donors before altering the conditions of financial transactions.”

Growing your monthly donor base is key to building sustainable fundraising and these methods will, most likely, bring immediate increased donations, but at what cost to the reputation and good will of your nonprofit organization?

When considering a new fundraising practice or policy, reach out to your longtime donors and ask their opinion. People love to share their opinions and donors especially appreciate being asked for their input about an organization they support. This is also a great cultivation technique.

Bottom line: the reputation and good will of your organization is worth more than the extra dollars you may raise with the “opt-out” technique. It is better to cultivate loyal donors with honesty and transparency.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

38 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page