Fundraising Ethics for Philanthropists

Originally published on

Giving back to the community isn’t always as cut and dry in practice as it seems in theory. Even charitable organizations with the most well-placed intentions can quickly lose the public trust if poor oversight and organizational infrastructure lead to an inefficient donation pipeline, and a loss in the confidence of the public and your investors can quickly torpedo the opportunity to do good. But there are some steps you can take to safeguard the intent of your philanthropic efforts.

Coming From a Place of Trust

Fundraisers serve as the lifeblood of most philanthropic organizations. They primarily serve as your sales team, fostering trust in the community and pitching your objectives to potential investors and donors. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you rely on fundraisers you can trust. It’s necessary to make sure that your training process is tight and precise, communicating clearly to everyone in your organization what your objectives are, setting clear guidelines, and ensuring that every action they take complies with the law.

Nurturing Your Donors

It’s important to remember that while you may be creating the infrastructure for your charitable group and determining how your funds are allocated, you can’t do any good without the assistance of your donors. You want to ensure that your staff act grateful for any donation received regardless of its size and respectful of any restrictions placed on gifts. Similarly, you want to make sure that the policies you have in place for your donations and allocations are transparent. The clearer you are about where donations are going and the more readily available that information is, the less you’ll have to worry about potential donors being hesitant about contributing to your organization.

Putting Ethics Front and Center

It can be hard for one hand to know what the other is doing, and that becomes even more magnified the more extensive your organization grows. Without a code of ethics in place, your fundraisers might not know how to address potential ethical dilemmas in the field. But codifying the rules provide them with hard criteria they can use regardless of the situations that arise. The Code of Ethical Standards from the Association of Fundraising Professionals is a great place to start, but you may have to make adjustments suited to the particulars of your charitable group.