It's amazing how often we're asked if we take a percentage of funds raised, and how astonished prospective clients are when we say no, that happens to be unethical. Until that moment, they equated fundraising with sales, where the seller seeks to maximize profit. Ethical fundraising is multi-faceted. It seeks to engage donors in long-term relationships that benefit both the donor and the organization. It is not focused on the bottom line. It is transparent and honest. It does not look at donors as low hanging fruit. It is respectful.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has a Code of Ethical Principles and Standards that all members annually sign. It has 25 ethical standards that members must meet. We are members, and we urge everyone in development to join. A commitment to ethics goes beyond development staff. In a culture of engagement and philanthropy, the CEO, board members, staff, and volunteers all learn about ethical fundraising and how to engage donors.
So what does ethical fundraising look like?
* You look at potential donors as givers rather than a source of dollars. You focus on the person and the relationship to your mission.
* You make a personal gift before you ask others.
* You have excellent policies on privacy and confidentiality. You communicate them widely to staff, volunteers, and donors. You have regular training for anyone with access to personal information to prevent breaches of privacy.
* You pay fundraisers a salary based on their qualifications and experience. You do not pay a percentage of funds raised since this might lead to staff work for their own best interest rather than that of the donor or organization.
* Your development staff (in fact, all your staff and volunteers) maintain a professional relationship with donors, and do not accept more than token gifts from donors (e.g. a meal).
* You do exactly what you agree to do with donors' gifts. If the original purpose of the gift is no longer relevant, you return to the donor or their designate to change its use. If they disagree, you prepare to return the gift.