Promoting Ethical and Effective Fundraising

In Brevard County, from Titusville to Palm Bay, we are blessed with philanthropists who give of their resources to help.

Their generosity helps:

…feed the hungry,

…shelter the homeless,

…counsel the disadvantaged,

…ensure access to quality healthcare,

…find homes for abandoned pets,

…help children in need,

…assist our elderly, our veterans,

…protect our environment and support countless other worthy causes.

Tackling these problems is the role of the nonprofit sector and its passionate leaders. Among these leaders are the professional fundraisers whose job it is to identify and educate individuals who share their same desire to fulfill community needs, to encourage their involvement with the organization and to secure their charitable investment in the mission.

Fundraising – Then and Now

The world of nonprofit fundraising isn’t new, but it has undoubtedly evolved from the days of Alexis de Tocqueville, who said in Democracy in America, “As soon as individuals with a cause have found one another out, they combine. From that moment on, they are no longer isolated people, but a power seen from afar whose actions serve for an example, and whose language is listened to.” That is the role of the fundraiser: to build relationships with philanthropists, to inform and gauge their interest, and involve like-minded individuals to invest in actions to support a needed cause.

Charitable giving is engrained in the human spirit, and it is important to note that philanthropy isn’t just for the wealthy. Every single person who gives to support a charitable cause, regardless of the amount, is a philanthropist. From the hot meal given to a homeless person to the $1 million gift to fund a research lab, every gift makes a positive impact on a community.

Through the years the basic rule of fundraising has stayed the same – ASK. All professional fundraisers learn quickly that the ultimate key is to ask the right person at the right time in the right way. But if the “ask” still seems daunting, try this instead:invite the donor to join others in making a difference by supporting the cause they care so much about.

Beyond making the ask, leading fundraisers are doing more than just putting on a great fundraising event. In Data Driven Nonprofits, Steve MacLaughlin states that,

“[d]ata driven nonprofits accelerate change in the world by using data to influence strategy and inform decisions that produce value and impact.”

Professional fundraisers are learning to identify giving trends, developing specific fundraising strategies and communication methods to reach targeted audiences, implementing detailed data analysis and segmentation, and benchmarking fundraising metrics. With today’s information overload, successful fundraisers are using valuable data to increase their grant opportunities and donors’ charitable giving.

Ethics in Fundraising

Professional fundraisers also face the challenge of maintaining public trust. Scandals such as the recent “Operation Varsity Blues” are a stain on the nonprofit sector. When the actions of a few ‘bad apples’ put future charitable contributions at risk it is incumbent upon our nonprofit leaders to ensure donor confidence, and thereby their financial support, at a time when circumstances might threaten an organization’s ability to meet its mission.

Many of Brevard’s nonprofits employ fundraisers who are also members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Affiliation in this organization requires its members to abide by the AFP Code of Ethics, The Donor Bill of Rights, and Standards of Professional Practice. These standards address such issues as conflicts of interest, truthfulness, privacy, and financial accountability. A commitment to ethical practices exemplifies an organizations obligation to uphold the very highest standards.

Fundraising is foremost about relationship building. People give for a reason. Help the philanthropist fulfill their legacy of giving and you’ll successfully meet your mission to help.

Pamela Gunthorpe

Pamela Gunthorpe is president of the Space Coast chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). AFP advances philanthropy by empowering its members to practice ethical fundraising through professional education, networking, research and advocacy. She is Investor & Community Relations Manager for the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast and serves on the boards of the Palm Bay Chamber and South Brevard Sharing Center.