An enthusiastic and headstrong fundraising volunteer with whom I work often goes off-script for meetings. Recently, he read aloud verbatim from a donor’s profile, saying, “I heard you just bought a house in Boca!” He then proceeded to leave that donor’s profile out for the public to see. One time he left a profile in a prospect’s office!
What should I do? Should I say something to him? Should I bring it to the attention of the volunteer’s VP and/or fundraiser, or would that be unnecessary? Should I advocate for changing the format of the research so that it doesn’t contain any “highly confidential” information — perhaps just a brief bio? I want to ensure confidentiality, but I don’t want to make a fuss over nothing. What should I do?
Donor and prospect confidentiality is not something to take lightly. If you have a rogue volunteer, however well-meaning they may be, give them tools to help guide them. Keep the confidential information in the hands of seasoned fundraisers who understand its highly confidential nature and how to use it to benefit your institution and its advancement. You should absolutely have your VP or fundraiser assigned to that volunteer explain the negative effects overexposure can have on relationships and giving.
Have a meeting with your fundraisers and those who will be using research in their fundraising, and discuss all of the above, along with any suggestions you may have to maintain donor/prospect confidentiality. You will also want to evaluate what information and level of detail you provide to volunteers.
Knowledge is power. Confidentiality is critical.
Kudos from the Apra Ethics Team
In a recent PRSPCT-L post and response, a researcher asked for some good examples of NCOA providers. The PRSPCT-L responses provided by John Smilde and Alan Hejnal gave us some great reminders about doing our due diligence when searching out vendors, including:
Be extra careful when shopping for vendors you are considering for any screening of your data. Always research your vendor prospects to make sure they have some history and good reputations.
Make sure your vendor agreements are clear and specific about how the vendor will handle data, especially when working with a new vendor.
Thank you to all who share our mission to promote ethical practices in prospect research.
Have a question for the Apra Ethics & Compliance Committee? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.