In the world of professional advisors, taking continuing education that counts towards ethics is an annual requirement. I’m very glad for this, because, as most of us who have been around for a while have seen, serious, and even criminal, breaches of ethical behavior occasional occur in almost every profession. When it comes to working with donors who give to help others, such a breach must not be allowed.
In my office, I keep two framed documents as a reminder of how we at the Community Foundation need to conduct ourselves when working with donors. The first is the Code of Ethics from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the premier national membership organization for development professionals. The second is the Model Standards for Ethical Practice from the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, the parent organization of the Planned Giving Roundtable of Northern Nevada.
These standards of behavior convey the seriousness of professional conduct and act as a guide for staff. I’ve found these reminders are important guides, particularly as professionals move from novice to skilled, to becoming a true professional. Conducting oneself by these guidelines gets noticed and builds trusting relationships, and friendship.
Here are my takeaways from these standards of professional conduct:
- Affirm, through personal giving, a commitment to philanthropy and its role in society;
- Adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of all applicable laws and regulations;
- Do not ever engage in activities that conflict with your fiduciary, ethical and legal obligations to your organization, client or profession.
- Disclose all potential and actual conflicts of interest; such disclosure does not preclude or imply ethical impropriety.
- Never exploit any relationship with a donor, prospect, volunteer, client or employee for the benefit of the members or the members’ organizations.
- Recognize your individual boundaries of professional competence. THIS is key – only advise in areas in which you are professionally qualified.
- Ensure that donors receive informed, accurate and ethical advice about the value and tax implications of contributions.
- Ensure proper stewardship of all revenue sources, including timely reports on the use and management of such funds.
- Compensation paid to Gift Planners shall be reasonable and proportionate to the services provided.
- Payment of finders fees, commissions or other fees by a donee organization to an independent Gift Planner as a condition for the delivery of a gift is never appropriate.
- Always strongly encourage the donor to discuss the proposed gift with competent independent legal and tax advisors of the donor’s choice.
If you are interested in learning more you can find the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Code of Ethics at https://afpglobal.org/ethics/code-ethics and the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners Model Standards at https://info.charitablegiftplanners.org/hubfs/Education/Model%20Standards.pdf
Thank you for the trust you have given to the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. We strive to hold and practice the highest standards of professional ethics and encourage others that serve you in philanthropy to do the same.