Doing What's Right
"Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote can easily be applied to what we in the nonprofit arena do every day. We feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, rescue animals, protect the environment.
We’re clearly on the side of the angels. But I’d like to suggest there’s another way to look at the Rev. King’s admonition. We must be equally fearless in our commitment to do what’s right in our fundraising programs and in the way we treat each other.
We all recognize that many of the “scandals” involving nonprofits aren’t scandals at all, but rather a case of media misunderstanding and watchdog grandstanding. Rather than a scandal, it’s actually a wise business practice for nonprofits to spend money to acquire new donors, reactivate lapsed donors and cultivate current donors. It is what allows them to raise the net revenue necessary to fulfill their missions and to make the world better.
Yet it is equally important to recognize that while not all of the nonprofits that are called out are in the wrong, some fundraisers actually are abusing the public trust.
So for the majority of nonprofits — and consultants serving nonprofits — that take their missions and their donors seriously, I ask the following:
- Doesn’t it make your stomach churn when you see sound-alike charities confusing donors and raising money off the brand of legitimate charities that are actually doing the work?
- Doesn’t it gnaw at you when you see nonprofits mislead the giving public in order to raise more money?
- Doesn’t it make you sick when consultants hoodwink nonprofits and their donors with fundraising campaigns where, even after years, the bulk of the money goes to the consultants and not the work of the nonprofit?
- Shouldn’t we all give voice to our outrage whenever someone bilks a charitable donor?
At the recent Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation Conference in New York, Art Taylor of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance talked about our industry’s impressive work to self-regulate. I believe we need to take that self-regulation to a new level.