Ethical Standard Deep Dive: Standard 15
Throughout the month of October, members of the AFP Ethics Committee will be addressing each of the standards in our Code of Ethics. Gene Tempel, Ed.D., founding dean emeritus and professor of philanthropic studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis, Ind., addresses Standard 15 today.
Standard 15: Members shall take care to ensure proper stewardship of all revenue sources, including timely reports on the use and management of such funds.
Gene: Standard 15 reminds us that stewardship is an ethical responsibility. We commit ourselves to thanking donors for their gifts and reporting to them on the use and impact of those gifts, no matter the size, even if we must say, “Your contributions, along with others who contributed $100, helped us to.…”
Stewardship focuses on our management and use of donors’ gifts, not on managing our relationship with the donor. Stewardship is more than trusteeship, which is addressed in Standard 14. It focuses on wise management and wise use of resources, as well as informing the donor of both.
The concept of stewardship is especially important today when donors expect transparency and accountability. Stewardship addresses both.
- Members provide an annual report to donors. This can be included in a general report about the organization or can be included in a constituent newsletter, mailing, etc., which is sent to donors.
- Members should ensure that donors of endowment funds receive a report on their funds at least annually. For small organizations, such reporting is recommended as a best practice.
- Members shall, to the best of their abilities, urge their organizations to adopt and operate within written policies governing planned gifts, donor recognition, vendor transactions, and investments.
- Members shall maintain written protocols or agreement guidelines for the administration of each restricted fund.
Examples of Ethical Behavior
- Developing policies that avoid placement of donated funds mostly or solely in high-risk investments that could expose those funds to unreasonable jeopardy.
- Developing policies to promote good stewardship and reasonably prudent investment standards.
- Providing and signing clear gift agreements with the appropriate parties and upholding the agreed upon terms.
Example of Unethical Behavior
- Using restricted funds for purposes other than those specified by the donor.
- Using endowment funds outside the written terms of the endowment agreement.
- Misrepresenting use of restricted funds (e.g., converting restricted funds from their intended use).