Ethical Standard Deep Dive: Standard 19

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Throughout the month of October, members of the AFP Ethics Committee will be addressing each of the standards in our Code of Ethics. AFP Ethics Committee Chair Robbe Healey, MBA, NHA, ACFRE addresses list exchange ethics in Standard 19.

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Standard 19: Members shall give donors and clients the opportunity to have their names removed from lists that are sold to, rented to or exchanged with other organizations.

Robbe: No one wants to be on a mailing, email or telephone phone list against their will.  That is what we do if we sell, rent or exchange names without acknowledging in advance that we will do it, and fail to offer prospects and donors a clear and easy way to opt out. 

In addition to AFP Ethics Standard #19, the ninth right in The Donor Bill of Rights clearly states. “To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.” 

If you never sell or rent names, publishing a statement such as this on print material ad your website will make that clear: “[Organization name] does not sell, rent or otherwise distribute demographic or personal information of any participant, volunteer, donor, friend or staff member to any other organization.” Even if you don’t sell, rent or otherwise distribute your list, people may still wish to opt out, so include the following: “If you would like to be removed from our mailing list, please notify [organization name]” and include contact information as well as an opt-out hyperlink.

If you do or may sell or rent names, a statement such as this recommended by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse will make that clear and give participants an opportunity and process to opt out: "We occasionally rent our mailing list to other nonprofit organizations as a way of raising extra money to support [organization name] services. If you do not want your name provided to other organizations, please let us know." Be sure to include an opt-out hyperlink, email and phone number. 

Lastly, make sure you implement the requests ASAP and efficiently. With the software systems available today, there is no reason to get this wrong. 


  • Members encourage the development of written policies and practices regarding the use of donor names.
  • Members ensure that donors are informed in accordance with such policies and practices.

Examples of Ethical Behavior

  1. Providing, on a regular basis but not less than annually, a written communication asking donors or clients if they wish to have their names removed from lists that are sold, rented, or exchanged with other organizations. This communication may stand alone or be incorporated within another, broader piece, such as a mailing, newsletter, or annual philanthropic or financial report.
  2. Making a good faith effort to remove names from a list upon request, even when names may be on the list in a form different from that on the request for removal.

Example of Unethical Behavior

  1. Selling, renting, or exchanging names of donors or clients without having given them periodic opportunity to have their names deleted from such lists.
  2. Providing a vehicle for donors and clients to have their names removed from lists to be sold, rented or exchanged when, in reality, no action is taken to remove names.

Supported by: 
The Claudia A. Looney Fund for Ethics in Fundraising
The Patricia F. Lewis Ethics Endowment Fund

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