Ethics in Fundraising

Accountability to Donors

Anonymous donors: Some donors ask that their gift remain anonymous, and are concerned that the nonprofit will sell their contact information to other nonprofits (which will increase the chance that they will be solicited by other nonprofits.)

  • To address these concerns, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has developed a Donors’ Bill of Rights that nonprofits are encouraged to adopt.

Acknowledging donations: Donors expect a ‘thank you’ note to acknowledge their charitable gifts. It is not only ethical to be transparent with donors about the receipt of their gifts, but it is also a legal requirement for certain gifts.

Respect Donor Intent

  • Respecting a donor’s intent is an ethical issue and also a legal matter.
    • A verbal agreement between a donor and a charity to use the gift in a certain way can be enforceable. When donors provide a contribution for a specific purpose this is referred to as a “restricted gift."
    • Clarifying how a contribution will or will not be used and respecting a donor’s intention about the use of a gift or how the donor will be recognized (such as a request to remain anonymous) is a basic tenet of ethical fundraising and accountability.
    • Using a written agreement can help define how a gift will be used, and manage potential donors' expectations about what gifts a charitable nonprofit will - and will not accept. Learn about using gift acceptance policies.

Using Fundraisers and Grantwriters

Additional Resources