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AFP Member Benefit: Promoting and Explaining Fundraising

August 18, 2008

(Aug. 18, 2008) As a professional fundraiser and a member of AFP, you are already advancing vital causes and making important strides in solidifying ethical and effective fundraising as a recognized profession worldwide. But did you know that AFP also works hard to make sure the value of fundraising and philanthropy is made known to the public locally, nationally and internationally?

AFP responds to hundreds of media calls every year while also being proactive in reaching out to reporters with key messages about fundraising and philanthropy. By working closely with the media, AFP can help reporters focus on the positive role of fundraisers, educate the public about many of the common misperceptions about the profession and creative a more positive fundraising environment for all charities.

While the association’s public affairs staff is in close contact with numerous reporters, an equally critical part of their work happens at the grassroots level. AFP often partners with chapters and members in responding to local stories where fundraising is negatively portrayed, often as a result of a misunderstanding about how the profession works. AFP public affairs staff drafts letters, op-eds, talking points, press releases and other materials to help chapters and members educate the public about fundraising and help position AFP as the knowledgeable, go-to source for information about philanthropy.

Responding to Ethical Concerns

Ethics remains the most important public affairs issue for AFP and the profession, with more media calls related to aspects of ethical fundraising, especially percentage-based compensation, than any other issue. AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, as well as A Donor Bill of Rights, are crucial items of discussion that often surprise reporters, according to Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, recent past president and CEO of AFP.

“Many people in the media I talk to are often stunned that the profession has a code of ethics and that there are documents like A Donor Bill of Rights that lay down explicitly what donors should expect,” continued Maehara. “Fortunately, our ethical standards are becoming more well-known as the profession is better established, and we’ve expanded our public affairs program and are quick to react to stories and editorials in the media about fundraising.”

AFP’s public relations activities emphasize the critical role that fundraisers play in the philanthropic process as stewards of the public trust. Not only does this role mean abiding by the highest ethical standards in the profession, but also ensuring that a donor’s money is used effectively and in the manner intended.

“Being a fundraiser is a balancing act, as you’re not only working for your organization, but ethically you must be committed to looking out for the interests of the donor as well,” says Maehara. “Many people don’t understand that the fundraiser is an advocate for the donor, and that’s a message we try to instill into all our communications.”

Encouraging and Honoring Giving

Another key aspect of AFP’s public affairs work is increasing public awareness about the importance of philanthropy and its impact on society. That effort is most noticeable during the association’s collective efforts in promoting and celebrating National Philanthropy Day® (NPD), which is celebrated annually by more than 100 AFP chapters and involves more than 50,000 people.

AFP International Headquarters works internationally to put the spotlight on NPD while providing support and materials to help chapters with their local events. This year, AFP is providing chapters videos to use during their NPD events and has updated and expanded much of its NPD Manual and other documents.

At the same time, AFP distributes press kits about NPD to media across North America. The kits include information about AFP, the impact of philanthropy and ethical fundraising, schedules for local NPD celebrations and information about international and chapter honorees.

Curbing Abuses

The association is also beginning a new campaign to encourage charities to not use percentage-based compensation. The campaign is aimed at local police, firefighters, nurses and ambulance groups, as those groups are often the target of unscrupulous firms that take advantage of their good names but provide very little back to the charity while damaging their reputations.

“Many of these organizations get told that percentage-based compensation is okay, and that a charity accepting 80 or 90 percent of the contributions is ‘industry standard’,” said Maehara. “In the process, they’re hurting their own good names, as well as the reputation of the entire sector. We believe that with some education, they will understand the issues involved and turn their back on percentage-based compensation and commissions.”

To address this problem, AFP will be sending materials, including its position paper on percentage-based compensation, to these types of organizations to encourage them to stop paying commissions or a percentage of the funds raised.


If you have any questions or suggestions for AFP’s public relations team, email AFP headquarters staff is always available to help you voice the vital role of fundraising and the role of our association in the nonprofit sector.

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