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Ethics: When We Talk, We Succeed

AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Ethics Committee

There is a lot we can learn from various ethical initiatives that have captured the public’s attention of late. Bell Canada’s "Let’s Talk" campaign for mental health is a shining example. Decades ago people were too ashamed to talk about depression or anxiety, and now it is commonplace to understand and appreciate that nearly one-quarter of the entire workforce have a mental health struggle. 

In a similar way, we need to destigmatize talking about ethics in fundraising and the charitable sector. People often have one of two reactions: it’s either, “… our organization’s ethics are fine—it’s everyone else that has a problem,” or “… ethics? We don’t have the time or resources to worry about ethics.”

Talk About Ethics

Just like mental health, a bit of knowledge is a powerful thing. When you know what ethics actually is, the causes and symptoms of healthy (and unhealthy) ethics, and how to sustain balanced personal and organizational ethics, you have the ability to diagnose and remedy problems. Better yet, you are able to create and sustain operational excellence, increase and deepen your relationships and be a leader for your donors and volunteers—who deserve your utmost respect.

The first place to start is to simply talk about ethics—to put ethics on your personal and organizational radar. Acknowledge what you know and, just as importantly, what you don’t know. Ethics relates to governance matters such as a board’s fiscal responsibilities or care of duty for staff. Strategically, ethics relates to fundamental fundraising practices such as the integrity of your case for support. Ethics on an operational level can be about the information you use and share when it comes to determining a potential donor’s ability to give. Personally, ethics is about the level of information you share about a donor with whom you have previously worked during a job interview, and whether you promise to “deliver” said donor to demonstrate your fundraising prowess.

At its core, ethics is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand where they are coming from—good, bad or indifferent. It is through the sharing of each other’s stories that we discover solutions to differences in values and ethical conundrums. Again, the key is to talk, to engage, and to do what’s right—together.

Share Your Story— Help Build The Ethics Library

To that end, the Ethics Resources Committee of Greater Toronto is promoting AFP’s growing library of ethics case studies. These are reality-based overviews of ethical situations that executives in the charitable sector have faced and managed successfully. The case studies are fascinating all on their own while also being excellent learning tools. They are available for download.

The committee has created a case study template to chronicle new examples of challenging ethical situations. We invite you to share one of your stories anonymously so that others can learn and continue to understand best practices, and apply them as the highest level fundraising practitioner.

When you talk and share, you and your organization succeed. Best of all, donors and volunteers will be moved to give and continue giving because they know at a fundamental level they can trust you and your organization.

Please fill out the case study submission form to either suggest a new case study not already covered, or to submit your own case study example.

It’s a Big Deal

Chances are that whatever ethics challenge or success you have faced or are facing, someone else is in the exact same boat. One story at a time, we give staff and volunteer leaders the ability to make their charity and fundraising everything they can be.

This article originally appeared as a post on the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter website: http://afptoronto.org/blog/ethics-when-we-talk-we-succeed/



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