Maybe It's Time for a Reread … of the Donor Bill of Rights
Nothing there is too shocking, yet the Web pages with this kind of information are often outdated or missing altogether. Here are some recent “discoveries” I’ve made when looking at nonprofit websites: a purpose included in the mission statement that (I was told) totally wasn’t what the organization does, an entirely missing mission statement or for that matter any clue to what it is the nonprofit does, a board listing that is outdated, and financial summaries that are based on numbers from three audits ago.
If the company managing our retirement funds was this poor in reporting, we’d probably take our money elsewhere. Don’t give your donors an excuse to do just that.
Rights 4-8: Use of donations
These five rights pertain to what a donor should expect when he or she chooses to give. They are entitled to know we will use their gifts to do what they asked us to do; receive acknowledgment (receipts) for their gifts; be assured their giving is confidential unless they specifically say otherwise; keep our relationships with them on a professional level; and tell them honestly if the fundraiser is a volunteer, an employee or a hired solicitor. (There is nothing in the Bill of Rights to say if this latter has to be voluntarily given or only provided upon request. What’s your opinion?)
Do your policies honor these expectations? It’s easy to get caught up in the cause of the hour and rush after income first and then stop to figure out if you have the means to invest it wisely in a solution to that problem. The media has done its job and exposed some nonprofits that raised money for a disaster and failed to spend most or all of it on helping alleviate suffering caused by that disaster.
Our profession does not need ambulance chasers. We need integrity in raising funds and using those funds. If we can’t use them as the donor asks, we need to explain to the donor why we can’t honor his or her wishes and offer alternatives. In the worst case, we need say “no.” That hurts. But it’s the right thing to do.
Rights 9-10: Good operational systems
Donors have the right to not have their names and personal information shared with other organizations, and they have a right to “prompt, truthful and forthright answers” if they ask questions.