Resources for ethical practices in fundraising

Matt and I are really pleased to be joining our colleagues at the monthly programming session of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – South Dakota Chapter in Rapid City today. We will be making a brief presentation on the importance of ethical practices in fundraising and maintaining the public trust. It should be a great discussion! 

In the business of our day-to-day work, we may not always take time to reflect on the ethical standards that are necessary for the health of our sector and the protection of donors. As fundraising professionals, I think we need to take time to think carefully and critically about ethical issues proactively so we’re more prepared to make decisions when ethical dilemmas inevitably arise.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals, The Giving Institute, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and other organizations within our profession have developed codes of conduct and ethical standards that help in guiding decisions and actions. While these documents are really helpful, sound ethical fundraising practices involve more than following a list of dos and don’ts--most issues that lead to ethical misconduct fall in a “grey” area in which the appropriate course of action is not entirely clear.

Beyond knowing the codes and standards that govern appropriate ethical conduct, professional fundraisers need a framework for making decisions, and one that is based on values that support sound ethical practice. The Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute on Ethics surveyed more than 10,000 people to define the values important to an ethical person. That survey and subsequent work led to the advocacy of 10 major ethical values, which form the basis for ethical decision making. Those values are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Integrity
  3. Promise-keeping
  4. Loyalty
  5. Fairness
  6. Concern for others
  7. Respect for others
  8. Law-abidingness
  9. Pursuit of excellence
  10. Personal accountability

We think this is a great list from which to build a framework for ethical decision making.

It’s really import to keep ethics on the top of our professional development lists. The Association of Fundraising professionals has a great number of resources in the “ethics” section of their website. There are also ethical guidelines posted on the websites of the following professional associations: