Posts tagged ‘Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement’

March 15, 2013

Do You Know How to Navigate in the Gray Area?

I recently published a post about how City of Hope plans to host a special fundraising event at odds with the organization’s mission. Most readers who responded to a poll at the end of the post felt the event is inappropriate with many even finding the event unethical.

The unscientific poll reveals that 49 percent of respondents feel that the “Let Them Eat Cake” event is “Inappropriate but Not Unethical,” 27 percent say the event is “Unethical & Inappropriate,” 13 percent say the event is a “Great Idea All Around,” and 10 percent believe the event is “Appropriate, Whether on Mission or Not.”

I’m comforted to know that over three-quarters of the respondents feel the same way as I do about the City of Hope event. However, some of the comments I’ve received on this blog site, on LinkedIn, and via email concern me a bit.

Perhaps the comments are a result of how I worded the post or phrased the poll responses. Some people seem to be under the impression that one’s actions are either purely ethical or purely unethical. In certain cases, those folks would be correct. Some actions are clearly ethical or not. Stealing money from Girl Scouts selling cookies (this really happened) is clearly unethical.

However, not all situations are black and white, ethical or unethical.

While the legality or illegality of an action is certainly a guideline, such as the theft incident I just described, something can be unethical without being illegal. SScales of Justice by mikecogh via Flickrome situations in which we find ourselves put us into a gray area. The most challenging ethical dilemmas often involve situations that are not black and white. If they didn’t, they really wouldn’t be dilemmas, would they?

When considering the possible, multiple responses to a situation, we will often find some alternatives are more ethical while some are less ethical. In the case of City of Hope, the organization could choose to continue to host its “Let Them Eat Cake” event without any changes although many readers found it at odds with the nonprofit’s mission and, therefore, unethical. Alternatively, the organization could choose not do any event.

However, the organization has other options. For example, City of Hope can run its cake event but offer healthy alternatives and educational material as well. Or, the organization could host a different event like the Healthy Chef Competition in Vancouver, Canada that Rory Green, a development professional and blogger, told me about.

Again, some alternative courses of action are more ethical or less ethical than others. The objective should be to always choose the best option, make the best decision.

The most challenging ethical dilemmas of all, however, do not have any good, ethical solution. They’re no-win situations. Think of the novel/movie Sophie’s Choice or the “Kobayashi Maru” test from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Even in these no-win situations, we must cope as best as we can to be the best we can.

As those who work in the nonprofit sector, we must understand that our greatest asset is the trust of the public. The more trust people have in charities, the more likely they are to donate. And, with greater trust comes larger contributions.

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February 15, 2013

Do Not Let This Happen to Your Organization

It happened recently to a prestigious private school.

New York’s Dalton School inappropriately released private alumni information to its volunteer fundraisers. The New York The Dalton School by DiegoDacal via FlickrTimes reported the blunder that sent a shockwave through the School’s community and may have a chilling effect on fundraising.

Do not let this happen to your organization.

While volunteer and professional fundraisers must have useful information to effectively perform, organizations must protect sensitive items and keep them confidential. I’m going to provide you with eight tips that will help you keep your organization safe and your prospects and donors happy.

But first, let me tell you what went wrong at Dalton. Here’s what The New York Times reported this month:

But recently, one of the top Manhattan private schools, the Dalton School, might have been a little too open with the data it had about some graduates. The school said [February 7] that it had given out to some alumni who had volunteered to raise money for Dalton information about several other alumni whose own children had applied to the school. The information included whether those children had been admitted, information that most parents prefer not to be shared, especially in cases where the answer is no.”

It is common and acceptable practice for nonprofit organizations to share prospect and donor information with both volunteer and professional fundraisers. Such information often includes contact information, spouse or partner data, affiliation, giving history, volunteer involvement, event participation, and interests.

Dalton ran into trouble when it disseminated information about whether the children of prospects applied for admission and were rejected by the School.

The Times article quoted an upset alumna:

’It’s horrible,’ said one alumna who has been financially supportive of the school, and like nearly everyone interviewed about what happened, declined to be identified for fear of upsetting school leaders. ‘Why should anyone know how much I have given and whether my kid got in or didn’t get in or even applied?’” 

Prospects and donors care about their privacy. They do not want to feel that they are being spied on. They do not want private information about themselves or, especially, their children disseminated to friends and acquaintances. Dalton overstepped by releasing admissions information about alumni children, something acknowledged by the School:

’We apologize for and deeply regret the release of this information,’ said the letter, written by Ellen Stein, the head of school. ‘We are reviewing our protocols to ensure that information about the admissions status of all Dalton families and applicants is protected and remains confidential. We have reached out to apologize personally to those 11 alumni whose names were listed.’” 

While I applaud Dalton for reviewing its data protocols after the inappropriate release of private information, it would have been far better if it had had this review before a problem occurred. You now have that opportunity.

Before a crisis happens at your organization, take the time to review your organization’s own prospect research and information sharing protocols.

Here are some tips to guide you during your review:

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