Prospect Research · Ethics · Content Type · Ask the Ethicist
Ask the Ethicist: What Should I Do When a Prospect Makes Headlines?
By Apra Ethics & Compliance Committee | January 12, 2023
Our fundraisers and researchers recently found themselves in some sticky situations! A researcher discovered news articles about a prospect that display behavior not in line with our organization’s values. It potentially poses a risk to our reputation.
Given this discovery, our fundraiser is concerned about accepting a meeting with the prospect, and understandably so. Should the researcher advise the fundraiser to classify this individual as “not a prospect” due to the reputational risks? If so, how should we go about recording this in the database, and what documentation can we include?
Dear P. Researcher,
No one wants to be in a sticky situation! These instances should be handled by not only prospect researchers, but with other leaders and departments within your organization. Prior to entering any information into your database, consult with the fundraiser’s director, your organization’s legal team and potentially executive leadership to discuss the researcher’s findings. This could be at your normal prospect check-in meetings or a separate conversation depending on severity of risk.
Once the team is on the same page, make a note in the database about this encounter, and use best judgement when storing or sharing links to external sources. Be sure to check with your database manager that there is a code or alert/notification that can be added to the system. Add general alerts to the prospect’s record such as “consult X fundraiser before soliciting,” or “see Prospect Research for more information.” These alerts should be readily apparent on the record and pull into your reporting functions. Add communication codes for “Not a Prospect” and be selective about event invitations and future mailings.
A few months ago, we wrote about sensitive data storage. Remember, we want to exercise an abundance of caution when it comes to storing sensitive information. This remains true even if the information is from a public source, such as criminal conviction information, sensitive or embarrassing information about the prospect, political views, personal opinions or value-based judgements. As a best practice, we recommend checking your own organization’s data governance policies to determine the best “why” to share and store this information. You can also refer to the Apra Due Diligence Toolkit for additional resources.
Keep an eye out for a Data Minimization Toolkit coming soon from the Apra Ethics and Compliance Committee!
Apra Ethics & Compliance Committee
The Apra Ethics and Compliance Committee monitors current ethics and privacy trends and issues, while offering timely guidance to the Apra and broader philanthropic communities. The committee is responsible for writing articles, presentations and webinars, as well as creating and updating practical toolkits and guides related to ethics in fundraising. Learn more about the committee online here.