Donor “Bill of Rights”

I’m looking forward to giving a speech to a statewide group of nonprofits in Wyoming in a few days. I was invited to present a keynote on “Walking the Talk,” exploring the ways that nonprofits can ensure that the core values of their mission are defined, understood, embraced throughout the organization, and serve as an essential measurement tool for even the smallest day-to-day decisions and activities.

As we approach the fall, it is an excellent idea to revisit your strategic plan, if you have one, as a starting place before you begin the specific work on your budget for 2011. Conversations about vision and values are a powerful way to open a board retreat, for example, and to bring new board members into the culture of your organization and the important “bedrock” values underneath your day-to-day operations.

In teaching and writing about the importance of values-based leadership in our sector, one of the resources I often return to is the 2004 project by a task force of Independent Sector called “Statement of Values and Code of Ethics for Charitable and Philanthropic Organizations.” This is excellent baseline work that your organization can use to launch its own dialogue around ethical standards and the values that support your mission.

I’ll write more on the topic of “Walking the Talk” in the weeks ahead, exploring the concept of values-based leadership from the perspectives of your personal values, organizational values, the values in the communities you serve, and sector-wide values. Today I wanted to share part of Independent Sector’s work on this topic.

Regardless of the size of your organization or the industry you are serving, consider how well  your practices and policies fit this “Donor Bill of Rights.” In raising funds from the public, organizations should fulfill these ten rights of donors, as follows:
1. To be informed of the mission of the organization, the way resources will be used and their capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes;

2. To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s governing board and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities;

3. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial reports;

4. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given;

5. To receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition;

6. To be assured that information about their donation is handled with respect and with confidentiality;

7. To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature;

8. To be informed whether those seeking donation are volunteers, employees of the organizations, or hired solicitors;

9. To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may share; and

10. To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful, and forthright answers.

How well do you measure up? These ten points are part of a larger project developed by the American Association of Fund Raising Counsel, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and Association of Fundraising Professionals. For more resources to help your nonprofit board and senior staff, visit

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