Fundraising Ethics

07/21/2015 · Terri

travelpledge clipFundraising activities for nonprofits are regulated by state laws. But what if they weren’t? What would your nonprofit do to prove to donors and your community that your organization is trustworthy and accountable? The answers might be simpler than you think.

Every nonprofit should follow best practices when it comes to donor relations and fundraising. Showing respect for your donors with a few simple steps goes a long way.

Start with a donor’s gift. Every gift, regardless of size or whether it is monetary or in-kind should receive a thank you and should receive it within 30 days of the gift. The gift acknowledgement should include your organization’s statement regarding IRS deductions.

A Donor’s gift designations should also be respected. If a donor makes a gift designated for specific program, that gift should not be put into general operating funds. Complete the project that the donor has given to and let them know about with an additional thank you and status report.

Timeliness matters when working with foundations and grants as well. Most grants will require your follow up within the next year. Be sure to follow through on what you said you would do with the money once your receive it and report back promptly. Neglecting foundation requirements can bring on negative community attention, as well as the likelihood that your organization will not benefit from that grant in the future.

When acknowledging donors publically, be meticulous with spelling and double or triple check the way that a donor’s name should be listed. If the donor wishes to remain anonymous, honor their request and do not indicate their donation publically.

Your nonprofit may wish to consider a “Donor Bill of Rights”. The Association of Fundraising Professionals offers a template that your organization can use or adjust as needed. Permission to use the Donor Bill of Rights must be requested directly from AFP and can be found at

In addition to utilizing best practices in donor relations, your organization should also remain transparent regarding fundraising costs, salaries, etc. Remember that donors can easily find this information already online, so it is best to be up front about these costs. Your annual report and your website are key locations to publish this information and make it easy for donors to locate.

Keeping your donors informed, good and bad, is the best way to create a lasting relationship and establish your organization as trustworthy in your community. This also allows for open communication and the flow of ideas from key donors. Accountable nonprofits have the best opportunity to grow and serve out their mission.


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