The Mikuska Group  

Fundraisers don’t come with a Rolodex

There’s a notion among some board members and senior staff at nonprofits that they can go out and hire the best darn fundraiser around, because “look what they did at X organization – they can bring their Rolodex with them and we can tap those donors!”

They woo the fundraiser away from that organization, plunk him or her down in an office with the mandate to “go and raise money”. Then they pat themselves on the back and wait for the money to roll in.

But, as they find out six months down the road, the torrent they were expecting is more like a trickle. Cue the moaning and wailing and berating. “Just open your phone book and ask those who gave to your last organization! They’re all rich and you know them already!”

Not only is this attitude patently unfair to the fundraiser, it’s also unethical under the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, which all members are bound by in their practice. Even if the fundraiser isn’t a member of AFP, it’s still good to operate under the code. Standard No. 17i says:

Members are respectful of the fact that information about donors and prospective donors is the property of the organization¬†for which it was gathered and is not to be taken to another organization.”

So even if the fundraiser has a prior relationship with a prospective donor, they can’t disclose the particulars to the new organization. They will have to establish a new relationship, based on their new organization’s mission and engage the donor accordingly. Be aware, however, that the new organization’s mission or leadership may not be of interest to the donor anyway! If they funded puppies and kittens before, they may not want to fund the environment or health care.

It all comes down to respect. Respect for your fundraiser. Respect for the prospective donor. And a mandate for your organization to create a culture of engagement that invites supporters to join you.

Laura Mikuska

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