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Ethics: October is AFP Ethics Awareness Month, But Why Wait?

Ethical fundraising is not a one month a year thing. It’s every day. It’s every donor, every donation, every decision you make.

For members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) there is a Code of Ethical Standards.

Ethics are not the law and no one goes to prison for being unethical so long as no laws are broken, but, unethical fundraisers risk losing their reputation and damaging the nonprofit they work for.

Here are some common unethical behaviors that may seem to be ethical.

  • Paying grant writers a percentage of a grant. This assumes that a grant writer would not be paid unless a grant proposal is funded. Grant writers are not lawyers, they do not work for contingent fees. They should be paid a fair market wage for their work.
  • Using restricted donations for a program or expense that is outside the restriction. If a donation is for playground equipment, the nonprofit cannot use it to pay the rent or salaries. Maybe a percentage can be used for administration, but that should be clearly stated in the agreement between the donor and the nonprofit recipient.
  • Asking fundraisers to raise their own salary. Fundraising staff should be paid a salary and benefits like everyone else. Funds raised are for the charitable organization, not the individual fundraiser.

Unethical behaviors that are obviously unethical:

  • Leadership or anyone else using donations for their personal use such as clothing, entertainment, travel, and other personal expenditures.
  • Leadership or anyone else using staff for personal benefit such as childcare, errands, or personal household maintenance.
  • Falsifying financial documents.

Whistleblower Policy

The dilemma is what to do when we know about unethical behavior. Who do we talk to? When do we talk to someone? One of the most important policies a nonprofit organization should have is a whistleblower policy. This policy should be accessible by everyone associated with the agency and should clearly outline the steps to report mismanagement and/or unethical behaviors.

If this does not exist, carefully evaluate your options. Who is involved? Can you go to the executive director or the chairman of the board? If they are involved, then maybe another officer of the board. Your HR department may also be helpful.

If none of these options are available to you, then, to protect your reputation, you may want to consider giving your notice and moving to your next opportunity.

DMGroupConsulting is here to help. Schedule a free 30 minute consultation.