Fundraisers' Ethical Concerns Span Donor, Workplace Issues

Fundraisers' Ethical Concerns Span  Donor, Workplace Issues

Top ethical concerns for many fundraisers include not only issues such as donor control of gifts and conflicts of interest but also workplace issues, a survey conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals finds.

Based on responses from more than five hundred and fifty members, the survey found that the most common ethical challenges for which fundraisers said they needed more guidance and resources were donor control and restrictions on how gifts can be used (48 percent), conflicts of interest (41 percent), and so-called tainted money given by donors.

Released as part of AFP's first Ethics Awareness Month, the survey also found that AFP members were interested in seeing the organization address workplace issues such as sexual harassment and racial and gender bias, as well as work more intentionally to engage elderly donors and online crowdfunding platforms. Many members also cited the challenge of working with executive directors, staff, and board members who may not observe the AFP Code of Ethics or do not understand fundraising, relevant ethical standards, and/or the need for a code of ethics or policy with respect to donor behaviors. Indeed, 59 percent of respondents said nonprofits should be asked about their adherence to the AFP Code of Ethics in their federal tax documents.

At the same time, the survey found that a majority of fundraisers did not face challenging ethical situations or dilemmas all that often, with 23 percent reporting they never have had to address such a situation, nearly half saying they did so only once a year, approximately 17 percent saying they did so on a bi-monthly basis, and only 8 percent saying they did so on a monthly basis.

"The results of the survey show AFP needs to think more expansively about ethics in fundraising and the workplace," said AFP chair Martha Schumacher. "The AFP Code of Ethics is focused, and rightly so, on fundraisers and their actions and behaviors. But we have to acknowledge that many people are involved in the fundraising and giving process. Ethical behavior and standards should apply to those individuals as well, and we need to support fundraisers as they work with colleagues, bosses, donors, volunteers, and others."

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

"Donor Control, Conflict of Interest and Tainted Money: Key Ethical Concerns for Fundraisers." Association of Fundraising Professionals Press Release 10/23/2019.