Ethics Rapid-fire for Your Next Staff Meeting

I’d like to improve on a quote I often use; “philanthropy, an awkward word that does so much good” by adding “ethics, a simple word that can ruin or fix everything.”

The thing is, ethical lapses don’t have to happen. It’s helpful to be talking about general ethical issues to help your staff how to respond should something crop up. Or, at least make ethics present in your organizational culture. To help keep the discussion of ethics alive in your organization, here are some rapid-fire questions to use at your next staff meeting. Use these general examples to discuss how your organization should handle similar situations.

Ethical scenario rapid-fire – What would you do?

  • A donor, whom you did not invite to your wedding, sends you an expensive wedding present, or gives you a gift when you have a baby.
  • Your organization’s expense policy forbids the purchase/reimbursement of alcohol. You are having dinner with a donor and she orders a glass of wine.
  • You receive a memorial gift made out to your organization praising a staff member who does not work at your agency.
  • When you are running a donor’s credit card, it comes up as “stolen.” What do you do? What if the person is right there, say at your event?
  • A board member wants you to issue her a receipt for all of her gifts to your organization; including $1,200 she spent at your events last year.
  • You receive a matching gift for $50, the price the person paid to attend your black-tie dinner.
  • You have a board member that sits on a Foundation grants selection committee. Is it ethical for them to do both?

For further consideration

  • Does your organization have policies in place to guide ethical decisions?
  • At what point should you release staff or donors engaged in unethical behavior?
  • You know of ethical breaches in your organization, how should you respond?

For more information on fundraising ethics visit the AFP International web site.

About Benjamin Mohler

Benjamin Mohler, CFRE, ACFRE has a keen interest in understanding the connection between culture and the practice of philanthropy. His experiences working with international nonprofit organizations, extensive international travel, together with his graduate work at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and leadership roles with local nonprofits combine to produce his expertise in this area. He’s also a big baseball fan.

Mohler is the Assistant Vice President for Major and Planned Gifts at Eastern Kentucky University. Prior to his current role, he held key roles with The William States Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fundraising Professional (ACFRE), and serves AFP at an international level, including his current role chairing the publishing committee for the AFP Fund Development Series.

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