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Stranger Things in Fundraising

Who is a fan, like I am, of Stranger Things, the American science-fiction horror mystery-thriller television streaming series set in the 1980’s in Indiana?

While fiction and fundraising don’t typically go hand-in-hand, I’ve seen some things that are certainly stranger than fiction. Consider these examples inspired by real-life events.

Joaquin and Amelia gave monthly to the ABC of Tomorrow Organization. At the end of the year, they decide they were unhappy with the organization’s response to their concerns about the executive director. They demanded their gifts be returned.

Does the organization have an obligation to return their gifts?

If the donor wishes to receive IRS tax benefits for making charitable contributions, then their gifts must be irrevocable, meaning, they cannot take them back. While the nonprofit is not obligated to return the contributions, most nonprofit experts would recommend returning the gifts as a gesture of goodwill.

A nonprofit focused on domestic violence intervention received a gift from a nationally-known business which features very adult misogynic content.

How does the nonprofit handle the gift?

In this example, the nonprofit refused the gift because the contribution was in conflict with their values statement.

How does a nonprofit know which gifts to accept or decline? I’ve definitely seen some strange things during my fundraising career, and I always recommend a good gift acceptance policy adopted by the board of directors to help with these strange situations. Investing in legal counsel or having an attorney on your board with the right specialty is just as important.

While we all try to avoid these strange situations, being prepared and educated on legal and ethical considerations is important. Professional development for you and your team can start with the AFP Code of Ethical Standards and ongoing nonprofit training.

For all of us, I hope Stranger Things remains in the realm of entertainment and doesn’t cross over to our fundraising careers.

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.

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