Activities to Avoid
There are a variety of activities your organization should avoid altogether to maintain integrity. Most are common sense, but it is worth pointing them out here so they are on your radar.
An effective organization will want to avoid what is sometimes called slippage. Slippage includes creative accounting, misleading results, overstating your case, marketing hype, deceiving to influence others, concealing of bad news, or claiming false credit for others' work. These are all unethical activities that cannot be permitted by a successful nonprofit.
Inappropriate Personal Conduct
Conduct and ethics will often come into play. This includes the way members behave within the organization and while soliciting funds. If someone has his own personal agenda, the functions of the group — including meetings, conferences, and fundraising activities — are not the place to carry out such personal aims. One woman, while putting together a fundraiser, slipped in that she was job hunting and used the opportunity to meet people to hand out her resume while collecting donations.
Guest speakers may attend your function out of kindness and generosity, and to sell their latest book or services. If your organization approves of such activities, be sure to set the policies and procedures in place in advance so your group can monitor how these actions are to be carried out. Often, a group will have someone speak at a conference or seminar knowing he is also going to promote his work in some manner. As long as these kinds of plugs do not detract from the subject at hand, it is permissible. This is a judgment call your organization will need to make.
Misleading the Public
Fraudulent practices, such as telling donors there are plans in the works when in fact there are none, can get your nonprofit listed among the Internet watchdogs that monitor fundraising activities. Internet and charitable fraud has increased in recent years. Places such as the American Institute of Philanthropy (
Websites offer research tools that allow prospective donors to look up the mission, goals, financial information, and history of nonprofit organizations. While they do not recommend one nonprofit over another, they often provide grades that can influence people when they are searching for worthy charities.
High-pressure selling techniques may also cross the line. These include ongoing phone solicitations or e-mails where solicitors won't take no for an answer. Let's face it — if you've called someone three times and she has politely gotten off the phone each time, she is not interested. In simple terms, there is no place for harassment in fundraising.
Donors have a right to choose whether to contribute, based on the honesty and integrity of your organization as presented by each member. Education about your mission and your organization should be readily available and used in place of high-pressure selling techniques. In fact, if you persist with a high-pressure appeal, supporters may begin to question your legitimacy.
Don't forget etiquette, an important part of any successful sale. It is worth pointing out that when you build up a good relationship with a contributor, that person may make another contribution during your next campaign. However, if you pressure someone into giving you money just so you will stop your persistent solicitations, you are not showing the organization in a positive light and will most likely not see further contributions from the individual. Your job is part soliciting or selling and part building up relationships and a positive image for the organization and the good work you do. Ethical practices and clear policies that demonstrate to members and donors alike the integrity of your organization are critical components to a successful fundraising effort.