Ethical Standard Deep Dive: Standard 4

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., explores Standard 4.

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Standard 4: Members shall not exploit any relationship with a donor, prospect, volunteer, client or employee for the benefit of the members or the members’ organizations.

Gene: Standard 4 involves two separate ethical issues of exploitation that must be viewed in different ways. We cannot as fundraisers benefit personally from our relationship with the donor. This issue is based on the question, “Who owns the relationship?”

The relationship is always between the donor, prospect, volunteer or employee and the organization.  These relationships are not personal. We serve as fundraisers on behalf of the organizations who employ us. An offer from the donor to have us use a summer home for a week can only be accepted if the donor will allow you to pay market rate or contribute the market rate to the organization. Any funds left to us in a will must be contributed to the organization.

The second aspect, benefit to the organization, focuses on the question, “Who is the client: the organization or the donor?” This question requires us to focus on balancing the interests of the organization, which employs us, and the donor who supports the organization.

We must look out for the interests of the donor and make certain that we do not take advantage of our relationship to encourage donors to make gifts beyond their means.

Guidelines

  • Exploitation in this context includes:
    • taking advantage of, or making use of, another person for one's own ends;
    • encouraging another person to take action that is to the person's disadvantage or to the disadvantage of that person's family; and,
    • encouraging another person to action that would seem, to the reasonable person, contrary to the best interest(s) of the person so encouraged.
  • Members assure that the compelling purpose of gift planning is to ensure that the wishes of the donor or the donor's representative are carried out, and that the organization receiving the contribution provides services to constituents that are meaningful to the donor


Examples of Ethical Behavior

  1. Informing donors and prospects that the member is acting in a professional capacity with the express intent of relating the mission and goals of the member's organization to the individual in the hope that the individual will be influenced to accept the value of financial support to the member's organization.
  2. Encouraging a donor or prospect to seek independent professional advice when including the member's organization in the individual's estate or financial support plans.
  3. Encouraging a donor or prospect to inform his or her family of the intent to include the member's organization in the individual's estate or financial support plans.
  4. Refusing to participate in the structuring of contributions by any prospect or donor who, to the reasonable person, is incapable of making an independent, informed decision.


Examples of Unethical Behavior

  1. Influencing a donor or prospect to arrange his or her affairs so that the member may personally benefit.
  2. Manipulating a donor or prospect who is vulnerable because of age, handicap, infirmity, illness or emotional or physical impairment or dependence to arrange his or her affairs so that the member or member's organization becomes a beneficiary of the individual's estate or financial support plans.
  3. Assuming the role of personal friend, confidant or caretaker in order to influence an individual to include the member or the member's organization in the individual's estate or financial support plans.
  4. Accepting a gift of more than token value from a donor or financial supporter who became known to the member as a consequence of a member’s current or past employment.
  5. Accepting a bequest from a donor who became known to the member as a consequence of their current or previous employment.
  6. Using, or threatening to use, information detrimental to any person to coerce someone into any action that the individual would not otherwise willingly undertake.
  7. Using, or threatening to use, status, position or power to coerce someone into any action that the individual would not otherwise willingly undertake.
  8. Failing to provide on a regular basis, but not less than annually, information to donors who have made an open-ended pledge payable through electronic funds transfer, preauthorized checking, or similar program, which information discloses the status of the pledge and the procedure to change or cancel the obligation.

 

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

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