Ethical Fundraising – How to take good money from bad people … or not?
Would you accept a donation from Donald Trump? Or would you accept a donation from a whaling company? What about a financial institution that invests in land mines? What would you do?
What types of people, organisations or companies would your organisation accept donations from?
Deciding who you should and shouldn’t take money from is one of the first things a charity must decide when starting their fundraising programme. (See: 5 steps to setting up a fundraising programme). One of the key policies to put in place before you start fundraising is the Gift Acceptance Policy (GAP).
When we’re writing our GAP, we’re asking ourselves the question: would our donors be happy to know where the money came from? And does taking this donation uphold the values of our organisation? If the answer could be no … or maybe – then you really need something in place to make sure you’re not compromising your organisational values for the sake of a quick buck.
The GAP simply outlines who you will and won’t accept donations from. Your GAP will be in line with the values of the organisation and it can be as general or as specific as you like.
If you were to write a policy that generally spoke to the values of the organisation you might include things like: whether or not the donation will compromise the organisations values or mission, whether or not the money was sourced legally.
If you were being more specific, it would be here that you include or preclude any individuals or entities you might consider as not aligning with the values of your organisation. Some examples might include lotteries, gaming, alcohol, tobacco, and financial or political institutions. It might even be food related. You may even go one step further and preclude any persons associated with such groups.
Let’s say for instance you’re an environmental charity, you might exclude accepting donations from companies who sell or use products which contain palm oil extract. If you’re an animal charity, you may exclude accepting gifts from food companies who don’t use humane slaughter practices.
This policy is about what types of donations you and your organisation feel comfortable with and whether or not your donors would expect to see Mr Battery-Hens or Mrs Pays-minimum-wage-for-80-work-week as being associated with your organisation. It is difficult though because growing your funding sources and fundraising programme is a challenge and many organisations may be reluctant to get very specific so as not to limit their ability to accept donations. In this case you may decide you want to go with a more general policy and assess situations as and if they arise.
Complementing your policy, a fundraiser might have a checklist handy whereby they can perform a quick test of the donation to see if it is one that you can accept or not. You may also choose to include a threshold for consideration. Putting a monetary threshold in place will help you decide when you might question the source of the donation.
When thinking about accepting gifts or donations, you should also consider those who are fundraising on your behalf. We would normally call these Community Fundraisers and this is a whole other policy in itself. But it’s important because the event or activity associated with your name could contravene your values. Would you be happy if someone organised a wet t-shirt competition to raise funds for your organisation? Maybe! That’s ok – but some organisations and donors might not be.
There are no hard or fast rules here – you set the bar for your organisation, but it is a very important bar to set so as to ensure you and your donors are comfortable about the source of the gifts you receive.