Ask the Ethicist: Recent Headlines Have Left Me Speechless

Dear Ethicist, 

??? 

Sincerely, 

PDPE (prospect development professionals everywhere)

Dear PDPE,

We get you. We understand being at a loss for words following the recent whistleblower activity and investigative reporting regarding acceptance of contributions from a disqualified prospect. We’ve got words for you! Now is a great time to reassess your own organization’s policies. 

1. Is disqualification clearly defined? Does your policy regarding such have buy-in from the very top of your organization? Is this policy known and understood throughout the organization?
 
Tip: If your organization does not have a policy regarding disqualification, there is no time like the present to work with your colleagues to develop one.
 
2. Are prospect development professionals empowered to bring forward any deviation from stated policies regarding disqualification?
 
Tip: Work with your colleagues to create a policy for this. Prospect development professionals are in unique positions, but others in your organization should also be empowered.
 
3. Does your organization have a clearly defined process for performing due diligence prior to advancing a relationship with a major gift prospect? At your organization, are prospect development professionals provided with the necessary resources and time to perform due diligence tasks?

Tip: Create a policy for when due diligence should be specifically performed. In the course of one’s daily tasks, if one encounters information regarding a prospect or donor of which other colleagues should be aware, one must bring such information forward. Prospect development professionals should work to minimize the risk to one’s organization.

4. Have we mentioned policies? This also includes reviewing gift acceptance and prospect management policies. Make sure any of your own department’s policies are in alignment with related policies.

View each negative or unsavory headline as another opportunity to create a culture of ethics and compliance at your organization. Start by having regularly scheduled ethics and compliance sessions, which should be attended by everyone at your fundraising organization. Have these meetings before it’s your organization being investigated by Ronan Farrow.  

You’ve got this, PDPE! 

Bravely yours,

The Ethicist

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