There is good reason to stand tall and take pride in being a fundraiser. Not to get all self-righteous, but we are the engine that makes a difference in the world, from funding lifesaving biomedical research and preserving our planet to helping people in peril and standing up for freedom and fairness. But there is something else that makes our sector special: desire to do the right thing by our stakeholders, those who support us, and those we in turn support.
Ethics are a part of the DNA of (most) nonprofits, whether it’s a laminated Donors Bill of Rights by the watercooler or implicitly understood principles. We go above and beyond what it takes to stay out of legal hot water and try to do the right thing by our donors.
With newly emerging privacy regs, rather than focusing on CYA, we are asking ourselves, “How can we be responsible stewards of the data people entrust us with?”
Relationship with donors is built on trust. We count on our donors to stick with us, to care and to support us. Without them, we cannot deliver on our mission. Donors trust us to spend their money wisely and make it go further, to create a change in the world that individual supporters could not accomplish on their own. Tarnished reputation will quickly drive supporters to take their dollars elsewhere.
When it comes right down to it, these lofty principals are not rocket science. Good manners – saying thank you and responding to requests in a timely manner. Honoring donors’ intent. Being transparent and accountable about the work we do and where the funds are spent.
And at times preserving that trust means saying no – no to opinions that lead us off course, no to donation restrictions that result in inefficiencies, no to investments that provide too little return to meaningfully impact our missions, no to programs that we cannot properly execute.
Practical realities like aggressive fundraising goals and diminishing resources put even the most ethical humans to the test. A dear friend shared a quote by 19th century poet George MacDonald, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” Our stakeholders are emotionally drawn to us, and may even come to love us, for the work we do to serve our causes. It’s how we do it that earns, and keeps, their trust. As fundraisers, the responsibility for initiating the bond of trust begins with us.