Dear Fundraisers, How Ethical Are You?

October 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered about the level of your department’s/organization’s ethics while sitting in a meeting or in a moment of down-time during your crazy day? Does this question plague you as you lay your head down on the pillow at night? Well my friends, you are in luck: The Association of Fundraising Professionals has finally developed an online tool that is the answer to all of your worries!

Ok all joking aside, the AFP announced this week (read article here) of the release of their new online survey tool, the AFP Ethics Assessment Inventory™ (EAI) that will allow fundraisers the ability to “examine the alignment between their personal ethical performance, that of the organizations in which they work and their peers within AFP.” It asks fund raisers to gauge their accountability, adherence to purpose, courage, integrity, and whether they operate in a transparent and trustworthy manner. According to their website, “Fundraisers are [also] asked to rate a variety of ethical attributes about themselves, including how well they keep current with fundraising best practices, make decisions based on the best interests of their organization and its donors, foster transparency and adhere to the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, and more.”

The tool was built from research conducted by the Center for Ethical Business Cultures at the University of St. Thomas-Minnesota, in St. Paul, and with advice from about 2,000 members of the fund raisers’ association. Results are anonymous.

Now, on one hand I think this tool is quite interesting (I would go as far as to say even a good idea). It can be done without fear of releasing sensitive or unfavorable information, it can be accessed easily, it appeals to internet/media/technology-savvy professionals, and it does not require an outside consulting expense. Fundraising professionals can answer questions easily on their computers, and the tool itself analyzes the level of their ethical performance. Sometimes, as we get caught up in the flurry and craze of surviving day-to-day, we lose sight of the bigger picture and how what we do fits in (not to mention the repercussions of our actions). Perhaps this tool will be an effective vehicle for showing us the manner of our performance, and providing us with means of improving our transparency and fulfilling our responsibilities to our donors.

On the other hand, I am skeptical. Clearly without taking the survey, I cannot speak to its effectiveness, but I still question how well it can truly measure all of the intricacies of fundraising in today’s society. Also, in the world of non-profit arts organizations, time can be a valuable resource. I wonder if this is a tool that will distract and consume our precious time and energy, as opposed to being a worthy investment in future operations. Are the outcomes and results the tool gives things that the Development team can control and adjust? Or is this a tool that would be better aimed at the Board? (Of course, it is also only available if you are a member of the AFP)

I would really love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this. What do you think… will this work?

– – Helene


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