Doing What We Said We Would
These days, the news is filled with stories of ‘Deep Fakes’ and ‘phishing’ attempts by people pretending to be someone they are not. What a stark contrast to those who practice their profession in an ethical way, following a code of ethics like the AFP Code of Ethics and the GPA Code of Ethics. These Codes of Ethics provide guidance for fundraising professionals and clearly puts forth expectations for our members, donors and funders.
One of the frequently asked questions we see has to do with how grant funds are used after they have been awarded to an organization. Often, it is an innocent, honest question from another member of the organization. They make the case that they have a more urgent need or that circumstances have changed (as they certainly have during the last six months), and the grant funds could make a real difference if they could be redirected from the program proposed in the original grant application.
For those who follow an ethical code, the answer is easy – do what you said you would do. Whether that is what was laid out in the grant proposal to the foundation or other funder or the message we put forth in the organization’s case statement and the appeal letter – do what you said you would do. Yes, there are elements of legal compliance, especially as it pertains to federal grant funds, yet it is clearly the responsibility of all of us who receive funds to be good stewards of those funds. We have been entrusted by others to do with those funds what we said we would. You can call that complying with the donor’s intent or fulfilling the obligations of the grant agreement. Either way, it is our role to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us and to make them have the impact that was intended and outlined our communication with donors and funders.
As has been evident in 2020, there are times when circumstances change so dramatically that it is our responsibility to the organization and to the donor and funder to reach out to determine if a change can be made to meet the needs of the organization and its programs. It is the ethical approach and shows good stewardship to the donors and funders to open these lines of communication to verify donor intent is met. This continues to build a solid relationship and ensures the organization’s good standing in the eyes of contributors.
While others try to fake their way along or assume others will not notice the difference between the proposal and the final reports, the professionals who follow the AFP Code of Ethics and the GPA Code of Ethics hold themselves and their organizations to a higher standard of stewardship and accountability.