Make Integrity the Bottom Line
“Well, we know what confidential means,” the interviewee said.
We were conducting a campaign-planning and feasibility study, and this leader happened to be a development leader at a major university whose campaign success has reached billions of dollars.
For 30 years now, I have seen the incredible value of properly conducted campaign planning and feasibility studies. It is amazing what a leader who understands the concept and is trusting will share—and how then you can use that confidential insight to better the client organization and increase the success (both in dollars and in brevity) of a pending campaign.
Just last week we passed up the opportunity to be considered for a campaign, because the client was not willing to invest in research that would yield great rewards for them. In this instance, a CEO wanted to do the study, but her board said that they did not have the time. For our own personal research, we like to benchmark organizations like this a year later—and in over 80 percent of the time, their campaigns are languishing because they were not undergirded by the right research, preparation and strategy.
But back to confidentiality. My new friend who I was interviewing worked with a firm at the university that apparently pledged confidentially, but then betrayed the donors and shared attributable information.
I stopped working with a major consulting firm in large part because this too was their practice: pledge confidentiality, and then share the insight.
This is probably as bad as—or worse than—taking a representative of the organization with you on study interviews. They should be conducted in a confidential setting with the study participants and the consultant.
Breaking confidentiality betrays the donor and the donor’s confidence. It is a shortcut that just doesn’t work. Anything built on poor ethics will eventually implode.
If you don’t plan on maintaining confidentiality, then don’t pledge it.
In all that you do, things big and small, it impacts not only your success and your organization’s, but the success and reputation of our wonderful profession.
Let your word be your bond. Carefully consider your commitments and promises and fulfill them! And always make honesty and integrity the bottom line!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.