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International Statement of Ethics Approved by 24 Countries

October 22, 2006

(Oct. 23, 2006) The International Statement of Ethical Principles, a series of values and standards for the global fundraising community, was approved unanimously Monday, Oct. 16, at the fourth International Fundraising Summit in Noordwijkerhout, Holland.

The document, which was developed with input from more than 30 national fundraising associations around the world, is designed to be an overarching statement of macro-level principles that can unite all fundraisers.

Individual fundraisers will continue to subscribe to a particular local or national code of ethics, which will address key details and specific issues relevant to their region and code. The international statement will focus on shared principles, such as honesty, respect and transparency, and is flexible enough to accommodate political, cultural and legal differences. It also contains six standards of practice related to issues such as stewardship of donations, communications and compensation.

Participating national associations have until Dec. 31, 2006, to ratify the document. Both the AFP board of directors and the Ethics Committee have vetted and approved the document. AFP was the first national association to approve the document.

“This is an historic moment in bringing the international fundraising community together behind a single universal declaration of fundamental principles,” said Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “The ideas of philanthropy, trust and ethics are shared by people around the world, and everyone involved in the philanthropic process—no matter where they are—should know that that fundraisers are bound by a common set of standards and best practices.”

AFP members will not be required to sign annually the International Statement of Ethical Principles, as its practices are already addressed in AFP’s own Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.

Principles and Standards

The statement contains five universal principles that help outline and guide the behavior of all fundraisers:

  • Honesty: Fundraisers shall at all times act honestly and truthfully so that the public trust is protected and donors and beneficiaries are not misled.
  • Respect: Fundraisers shall at all times act with respect for the dignity of their profession and their organization and with respect for the dignity of donors and beneficiaries.
  • Integrity: Fundraisers will act openly and with regard to their responsibility for public trust. They shall disclose all actual or potential conflicts of interest and avoid any appearance of personal or professional misconduct.
  • Empathy: Fundraisers will work in a way that promotes their purpose and encourage others to use the same professional standards and engagement. They shall value individual privacy, freedom of choice and diversity in all forms.
  • Transparency: Fundraisers stimulate clear reports about the work they do, the way donations are managed and disbursed and costs and expenses, in an accurate and comprehensible manner.

A key aspect of the statement is the six standards of practice agreed to by fundraisers and fundraising associations around the world:

  1. Fundraisers’ responsibility regarding donations
  2. Relationship with stakeholders
  3. Responsibility for communications, marketing and public information
  4. Management reporting, finance and fundraising costs
  5. Payments and compensation
  6. Compliance with national laws

These standards are presented with the recognition that fundraisers are subject to many different jurisdictions, and that they must observe the law of the jurisdiction in which they work. Use of words “will” and “must” indicate what is a mandatory requirement for fundraisers, and “should” indicates what is regarded as best practices by all organizations endorsing the statement.

It is expected that fundraisers adhering to these standards of practice will, first and foremost, adhere to the most rigorous interpretation of the law, and of the code of ethics of their own membership association, applicable to an activity, whichever jurisdiction that activity derives from.

“Establishing a common baseline across national boundaries is important because giving itself is becoming a transborder, transnational activity,” said Andrew Watt, vice president, international development, for AFP. “While the statement itself won’t have much of an effect on AFP members across North America, it will have a significant impact on fundraisers globally and efforts to organize new chapters and associations of fundraisers in other countries.”

A copy of the International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising is available in the Attachments section below.


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