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Stumped About Fundraising Ethics? AFP Can Help You

Most members probably think the AFP Ethics Committee exists mainly to prosecute and punish perpetrators who violate of the Code of Ethics. But actually, that is only a small part of the committee’s work.

Jay Love, chair of the Ethics Committee says, “Our primary goal is not to punish Code violators; it is to educate members and the public about fundraising ethics and to promote ethical fundraising practices. The committee is here to help people understand the nature of ethical fundraising and to encourage them to follow best practices in fundraising ethics. Often we resolve issues by counseling members who were unaware that they were violating the Code.”

Love points out, “The AFP Code of Ethics has generated public trust in our members and profession for 50 years. It is a valuable AFP asset that is followed and emulated by fundraising societies around the world.

According to Love, a large part of the Ethics Committee’s work is keeping the Code of Ethics, and its’ a challenging task. Fundraising technology and practices are continually evolving. In addition, AFP members are increasingly being asked to take on responsibilities and generate revenue from sources that are not philanthropic in the traditional sense—for example, sponsorships, crowdsourcing campaigns, cause-related marketing, social media, and affiliate agreements with commercial businesses. As new practices evolve, so do questions about their ethical implications, especially regarding compensation.

The Ethics Committee’s devotes much effort to studying and understanding how new techniques and practices relate to the core AFP values, such as putting donors and organizational mission first, avoiding self-dealing, and refusing percentage-based compensation. This is a key area where AFP members help. By raising questions to the Ethics Committee about actual situations they encounter, members draw attention to new factors and practices that did not exist and were not envisioned in the original code.

So how can AFP help you with your questions about fundraising ethics? If you can’t find the answer to your question in the Code, you may pose it to the AFP IHQ office via letter, email, or telephone and get a prompt response. If the question has not been answered before, the office will forward it to the Ethics Committee for study. Emails should be addressed to The telephone number is 703-519-8444.

The AFP Ethics Committee is interested in your questions. If you encounter a situation that appears not to be covered clearly by the Code, please contact us.

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