Finally, another voice stepping up to the plate regarding regaining some public trust in fundraising.

The Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation (DMANF) has just issued its new Principles and Best Practices for Accountability in Fundraising.

Hats off to DMANF.

In the media release, DMANF General Counsel Senny Boone comments: “Donors expect nonprofits to be accountable and transparent. The new principles serve as key reminders to organizations that they hold a public trust.”

The guidelines offer a defense of fundraising as a necessary investment in any nonprofit’s mission, but with this bottom line: “Taken in total, in accordance with generally accepted standards, a nonprofit should spend a majority of its annual revenue on program.”

If I have any quibble with these guidelines, it would be that they are directed almost exclusively at nonprofits, the client side — lots of Do’s and Don’ts for nonprofits, but almost none, other than by implication, for the agencies and consultants who serve nonprofits (and in the worst cases, effectively own them).

In theory, yes, the ‘customer’ should be calling the shots and bearing much of the burden for ensuring its practices are ethical. But that’s a bit like writing hunting rules for the game warden but not outlawing poaching.

Here are the only two provisions directly addressing agencies:

“A commercial entity partnering with a nonprofit organization should not knowingly or carelessly hurt or endanger the financial health and/or the good work or good reputation of the organization. For example, a savvy and unscrupulous vendor should not take advantage of inexperienced staff at a nonprofit to enter into what would be an ill-advised agreement if adequate legal and fundraising marketplace advice were brought to bear.

And …

“The commercial partner should meet all federal and state requirements for working with nonprofits on fundraising, and all required filings should be complete and up-to-date.”

Both of those provisions strike me as rather timid. I want to see some Do’s and Don’ts for agencies and consultants.

Still, I do commend the DMANF for stepping forward. Let’s expand upon these guidelines and keep the momentum going.



This article was posted in: Nonprofit management.
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