I recognize the inherent risks associated with letting go of tight financial controls. I see the awkwardness of talking to donors about the cost of raising a dollar. I see our industry playing Twister—Semantic Version with expense allocation, coming out with legal structures that allow us to say, "100 precent of your donation goes to the cause." We all know that offices, desks, computers, employees, etc., are not free. We know a marketing-minded visionary donor agreed to "0 percent of your donation goes to the cause" to allow us to make that other statement legally, though not logically.
Those of us in the nonprofit arena have a responsibility—and an accountability—to build things that outlast us. It's not about us as CEO, or chief development officer, or board chair, or board member. It's about building an organization that is sustainable and can grow in support of a worthy mission.
It is up to the thousands of honest and ethical fundraising professionals to look out for potential fraud and abuse in our profession.
Liz's worthy organization sought to be frugal for years. Not a bad thing. Gradually, but surely, this desire to be financially responsible morphed into a cost-cutting monster. That's when the need to keep faith with investors, donors — those who pay the bills — somehow got lost in the desire to maximize cash flow and reduce overhead to zero — if possible.
St. Joseph's Indian School responds to CNN's claims that the school used fundraising letters "signed by fictitious kids." It's a lesson in responding to negative press.
How do you handle donor requests to be removed from your list? This may surprise some of you, but, "Duh! We remove them!" isn't always the right answer. Given that your donor file is so valuable, a well-thought-out strategy is needed for responding in a way that both honors the donor's intent and safeguards your asset.
When we cave in and take shortcuts, we truly shortchange the project at hand, the mission of our organization, those we serve, ourselves and our noble profession!
While you work for one charity, remember that your actions affect all charities and our profession as a whole. There must be zero tolerance for any perceived act of unethical behavior.