Maybe It's Time for a Reread … of the Donor Bill of Rights
I recently graded papers from 20+ students in a master’s class. Their assignment was to read and respond to the “Donor Bill of Rights” created way back in 1993 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and Giving Institute (formerly known as American Association of Fundraising Counsel).
Somehow, reading about this 21-year-old document as seen through the eyes of people new to the profession was refreshing (oh, not the misuse of commas and lack of complete sentences, Margaret Battistelli Gardner) — my students saw this as the most logical thing for a nonprofit to follow.
And many nonprofits do — some even unknowingly. Sadly, it’s the ones that don’t that bring dishonor to our profession and sometimes make us have to defend fundraising to people who assume that if one is corrupt, we all are.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet, wrote, “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” The Donor Bill of Rights fits that description perfectly — treating donors like it instructs us to really is genius, even if to many of us it just seems like a no-brainer.
So, if like me, you aren’t rereading this seemingly ancient document as part of your regular activities, here’s the CliffsNotes version.
Rights 1-3: Keeping donors informed
The first three “rights” cover basic information donors should expect to be able to locate without having to get a court order or spend hours lost in the sub-pages of your website. These include your organization's mission, how you intend to use their donations and proof of your ability to use those donations effectively; the identity of your board members and an expectation that the board is functional and operating as wise stewards; and to review (when desired) your most recent financial statements.