Nonprofit Insurance Program

Fundraising Ethics: Its a Tangled Web

By Alexa Connelly
November 11, 2012

Non-profit fundraising can get tangled up in a bad set of ethics if you aren’t careful. A web of lies and deceit to your donors will only hurt you. There are many ethical guidelines when it comes to raising money, where that money goes and how donors are treated in the process. Fundraising for non-profits is all about helping others and ensuring all of the money goes towards actually helping others instead of growing your business. The main thing to remember is that no individual profits from a non-profit organization’s fundraising efforts. It is all about helping others and taking the spotlight away from one person, even if they are the one giving the most to the organization.

Ethics are tied directly to the public. If the public doesn’t trust you, they don’t give. If the public doesn’t give, you don’t get funding. There are guidelines in the public put forth that outline a non-profit’s ethical standards as well as any volunteers, donors or employees. These are outlined by The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Donors’ Bill of Rights, Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

Ethics are about being honest about your representation of your products and services. You must present a picture of your non-profit in a true light. Always be forthright about where your donations are going. They need to be used effectively throughout the organization to increase its efforts in the cause. Donors want to know where their gifts and donations are going so they don’t feel like they are doing something for nothing.

With that said, it is never ethical to pay a fundraiser a percentage of the money raised. Some non-profits question this during non-profit fundraising, but donors contributing to a non-profit expect and deserve those funds to go towards the organization. No volunteer or employee of the non-profit should ever accept any compensation based on a percentage of money from a fundraiser. You should never receive personal benefit in the form of monetary value for your efforts. Non-profits are to help other people, not for your own personal gain.

Donors and volunteers are working hard to help others without any compensation. They do want to be recognized most of the time. Donor recognition can be a tangled web in the ethical spectrum for a few reasons. Donors do want to be acknowledged with a thank you card many times, but also many want to remain anonymous. If a donor wants to remain anonymous, it is illegal to share their information. To help your donors feel at ease, you can include a copy of your non-profit’s ethical standards or a copy of the Donor Bill of Rights on the back of your thank-you letters or cards.

Overall, non-profit fundraising is about being truthful to reach your maximum potential and reach the highest number of people. Always be honest and ethical in all you do regarding donations and events. Getting tangled up in a web of deceit will run your non-profit organization into the ground.

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