Guides & Resources

Ethical Dilemmas in Fundraising: Funding for Closed Programs

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This Ethics Awareness Month, we asked AFP members to share ethical dilemmas they have faced in their careers and how they were able to resolve them, successfully or not, using the AFP Code of Ethical Standards. See more ethical dilemmas. 

Tell us about an ethical dilemma you faced:

Our current organization is very large and has multiple programs at 30 different sites around the country. When a program is struggling to meet revenue goals through governement grants and private funding, it goes on a Watchlist prior to being closed within the budget year. The ethical dilemma is whether or not to continue fundraising for the program once it is on the Watchlist. Recently we were awarded a grant from a private foundation for a program that closed between the time of the application and when the check was received.

How was the dilemma resolved?  

We are hoping to be able to retroactively expense the foundation award for expenses related to the closed program within the fiscal year. If we are not able to, we will return the check. The ethics around fundraising for Watchlist programs is still debatable, particularly for new programs that are struggling to launch and end up on the Watchlist.

What could be done to solve or prevent this dilemma in the first place? 

I think this ethical dilemma stems from having too many programs and launching programs without lining up first-year funding. Ethical guidelines around fundraising for startups or new programs would be helpful.

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