SAN FRANCISCO—Ethical dilemmas are inevitable. They happen to the best of us, but not to fear! The good news is that it’s not the end of the world. It might seem like it when these dilemmas initially hit, but have faith that you can handle the pressure.
At the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ International Fundraising Conference, John A. Scola, CFRE, chief development officer at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, breaks down all the ethical issues in our sector and shares tips on how to overcome ethical dilemmas.
First and foremost, what is ethics? Scola defines ethics as “learning what is right and wrong, good from evil, proper from improper—and then doing the right thing.” But, if an action in fundraising is illegal, whether if it’s ethical or unethical does not matter—it’s illegal.
When you’re making ethical decisions, it can be complicated by obeying laws, knowing the right course of action, making decisions where there is no clear line between good and evil (rather a struggle to determine the best choice).
If you are faced with an ethical dilemma, there are three choices:
• Confront the dilemma and seek solutions.
• Ignore the dilemma.
• Look for a new job.
Now that you’re faced with an ethical dilemma, Scola say to ask yourselves these six questions:
1. Why is this bothering me?
2. Who else matters?
3. What is my role and responsibility?
4. What are the ethical concerns?
5. What do others think?
6. Am I being true to myself and the organization’s values?
Once you’ve answers these questions, it’s time to ask these seven questions to address ethical dilemmas:
1. Have you accurately defined the problem?
2. How did this situation occur in the first place?
3. What is your intention in making this decision?
4. Whom could your decision or action injure?
5. Can you discuss the problem with the affected parties before you make a decision?
6. Are you confident your decision will be valid in the future?
7. Can you confidently discuss your decision with your boss, family or the media?
Still unsure whether or not you’re encountering an ethical dilemma? Scola shared some examples of potential ethical abuses you may confront, which include misusing donor funds, divulging or absconding with donor information, intruding on private affairs, exploiting relationships, negligent security and questionable charges and expenses for services.
Although it brings in more money, Scola advises against percentage-based compensation because the charitable mission can become secondary to personal gain, donor trust is at stake due to pressure to donate, the fundraiser may be tempted to influence the size, nature and timing of the donor’s gift and this type of compensation ignores the role of volunteers and other staff members in the process.
To alleviate pressure from the board and, perhaps, other C-level executives, he recommends to ask board members to give and raise funds needed to hire a fundraiser, consider using reserves or endowment funds, look for grants funding new development programs, seek a corporate or foundation partner, identify a service organization to assist and think outside of the box!