The fundraising codes of practice used by UK and US fundraisers do not adequately address the ethics of fundraising, according to the director of fundraising think tank Rogare. They need a theory of fundraising ethics to inform the codes.
Ian MacQuillin, director of Rogare, was speaking about the need to adapt the current codes to address ethics to delegates at last week’s International Fundraising Congress, run by the Resource Alliance in Holland.
In his session A new look at fundraising ethics he said:
“There is a lack of clarity around the definition of ‘pressure’. We are proposing a code of ethics that balances the needs of the donor with the needs of the beneficiary.
“Ethical fundraising balances the duty of fundraisers to ask for support (on behalf of their beneficiaries) with the right of the public not to be put under undue pressure to donate. It is in this space – the space between the rights of the beneficiary and the rights of the donor and other stakeholders – that ethical decision-making frameworks need to be used to determine what amounts to “reasonable pressure”.
“This is not a means by which to justify any fundraising just because it raises more money. It is an attempt to strike a genuine balance – the needs of the beneficiary have been absent from much of the recent public debate about fundraising and we want to address that”.
1. All fundraising ethics is applied ethics; there is no normative ethics and the profession needs this.
2. Any new normative ethics has to balance duties to donors with duties to beneficiaries, yet at present all fundraising ethics are focused on duties to the donor.
Fundraising Preference Service
The impact of the proposed regulatory framework in the UK following the Etherington review was one of the talking points at this year’s IFC, with fundraisers from dozens of countries keen to learn more about current developments.
MacQuillin commented on one of the review’s proposals, the introduction of a Fundraising Preference Service that would enable individuals to opt out of all fundraising communications by any charity, an opportunity unavailable to customers of any other industry. He said:
“The risk of not establishing the Fundraising Preference Service is that some people are inconvenienced by receiving too many fundraising requests and some people will feel some kind of guilt about having to decline some, perhaps most, of those requests.
“However, the risk of establishing the Fundraising Preference Service is that charities will not be able to raise the money they need to provide services for their beneficiaries and those lives will be seriously inconvenienced.”
Rogare is the University of Plymouth’s fundraising think tank. Its remit is to explore under-researched and under-thought areas of fundraising and to generate new practical ideas by pulling together the academic and practitioner branches of the fundraising profession.
MacQuillin announced in May 2015 that Rogare was researching the need to address ethics in the fundraising code of practice.
Protecting donors from pressure
The American code of practice says donors must be protected from pressure or coercion.
The UK code of practice says donors must not be put under undue pressure.
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