Event Recap: Ethics in Fundraising

Ethics in Fundraising

On April 27, 2021, a panel gathered to discuss best practices for developing gift and donor acceptance policies, making ethical decisions on how to work with donors, and how to graciously decline gifts from controversial funders. This program was generously sponsored by CCS Fundraising.

Moderated by Liz Keenan, Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Uni

t at Harvard Business School, the panelists Cindy Albert Link, Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Berklee College of Music, and Jessica Symonds, Senior Director at the South Shore Health Foundation, discussed these issues in their own organizations and past experiences, and provided advice and guidance on how to make ethical decisions about gifts.

The biggest takeaway was the importance of developing a comprehensive gift acceptance policy that not only considers the types of gifts your organization will accept but also the types of gifts, donors, or industries that you will not.  While all agreed that most donors are generous and have good intentions, complex situations can arise. Transparency, communication, and consistency are key to ensure that all constituencies within and outside your organization understand the process.  While no policy is foolproof, being prepared and continuously reviewing your policies will be instrumental for working through complicated gifts. In addition, it is important to review donor societies, recognition groups, and offers to VIP donors to ensure your organization is making ethical decisions.

The panel also took questions from the audience which ranged from how to handle negative reactions from donors to policies, optic and legal considerations of accepting gifts from certain industries, accepting cryptocurrency, what happens if a donor becomes tainted after a donation has already happened, how to work with supporters who may have cognition impairments, and what to do if your organization is not following their own policies or other ethical guidelines.

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