Do you know about The Donor’s Bill of Rights? Does your staff know about it? Your board of directors? If you do know about it, do you heed it?
For the sake of your donors. For the sake of your nonprofit. For the sake of the entire social benefit sector.
The Donor’s Bill of Rights was developed by a group of professional fundraising associations to ensure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public. It was no doubt a response to some of the shoddy, well-publicized cases of fundraising fraud – apple polishing to address the unfortunate circumstances of one rotten piece of fruit tainting the whole barrel.
Today most states have laws regulating fundraising, precisely to prevent this type of charlatan behavior. Yet it’s still easy to creep into unethical behavior, without breaking the law. And such behavior is bad business for nonprofits.
Without donor trust and confidence in philanthropy there’s no future for the social benefit sector.
Greg Warner, CEO of MarketSmart , recently began a dialogue about whether the Donor Bill of Rights is still valid, noting that he believed too few people know these principles even exist, let alone follow them all. This is important, because if you don’t know that rights exist it’s hard to stand up to defend them.
As fundraisers our job is to protect and defend our donors. Our donors and their rights to receive from us that which they bargained for. We make a promise to them as a nonprofit brand. It’s a promise to enact the values they care about, as demonstrated by their philanthropic support. It’s our duty to fulfill on this brand promise. Remember, all philanthropy is based on a value-for-value exchange. When your donor gives you time and/or money, your job is to assure they get value in return. Usually this value is intangible, i.e., a feeling of “goodness.”
In fact, success begins — and ends — with how you treat your donors in between the times when they make donations.
As a fundraiser it’s your job to really think, long and hard, about what you can do to make people feel good. Transparency. Honesty. Ownership. Integrity. Graciousness. Gratitude. Give these to your donors.
What do The Donor’s Bill of Rights boil down to in practice?
10 Action Steps to Earn Donors’ Trust and Confidence
- Keep donors ‘in the know.’ Show them the impact of their giving so they see their labors bearing fruit.
- Familiarize board members with their role as philanthropy facilitators and stewards of donor gifts.
- Prepare accurate annual financial reports; give donors easy access to these on your website.
- Adhere to nonprofit fund accounting principles and provide accurate statements of financial position to the board of directors with enough context for them to thoroughly understand what’s going on with your organization financially; allocate charitable gifts to restricted or unrestricted purposes per donor designation.
- Acknowledge donor gifts promptly, personally and accurately; reassure donors their gift was used as they intended.
- Treat donor gifts with respect and confidentiality; honor donors by not sharing donor information without permission.
- Behave professionally in relating to donors; commit to donor-centric principles.
- Disclose whether fundraisers interacting with donors are employees, hired solicitors or volunteers.
- Do not trade or share donor contact information without informing donors and providing them with an opportunity to be deleted from such lists.
- Provide truthful, prompt responses to donor inquiries relating to donations.
Want to know the best predictor of future giving? When people feel good.
What are you doing to assure your donors feel good enough to continue to invest in your mission? Please answer in the comments section below.
Want more ways to make your donors feel good?
The Attitude of Gratitude Donor Guide is for you! Tons of tips, templates, samples and resources – all designed to earn your donor’s trust, confidence and love. Plus you get a free 15-minute consult. Give yourself a little gift and grab some new ideas today!
Ethics is a subject that I feel strongly about, enough that I dedicated my greatergoodfundraising.wordpress.com blog about the subject for the last few months. I am preparing to end the series (finally) shortly. It really does surprise me how many in our field are either unaware of our professional ethics, or just don’t care. As people who raise money and support for our causes, it is so important that we build relationships based on trust and honesty with our supporters. If we don’t, we discredit our sector, our organizations, and ourselves.
Thanks Richard. I appreciate this comment, as well as the fact that there are people like you in the world. Keep fighting the good fight.
Great tips to earn donors trust and confidence. With information in the media about some charity organizations having misused donors money or being inefficient organizations; the accurate, transparent and easy to digest financial reports are more important than ever. Also not sharing donors information is very very important. Some charity organizations share donors information with each other and that is very upsetting for donors.
Am grateful to you for these helpful insights. Personally am working very hard to been transparent, honest and trustworthy. However, our fellow countrymen who were dishonest in one way or another, are giving us harder times to win back our integrity.
What must I do?