Thoughts On Draining The Swamp – Part 1
When it comes to cleaning up fundraising corruption and just bad stuff in our sector it’s clear that the regulators don’t have the resources and some of our trade associations have been too quiet, while others just don’t have the balls.
So what should we as individuals or organizations do, if anything?
Frankly, the bad actors have a pretty open field when it comes to ripping off the donors. Seemingly few or no consequences.
Sure, ‘steal’ a couple of million and get hit with a $5,000 fine. ‘Steal’ a few more and maybe $10,000. Hardly the stuff of deterrence.
In this post and one next week, we suggest two complementary approaches: first, public pressure fueled by shining the light on miscreants and conducting guerrilla warfare; and second, pressing our own sector and its leading voices and associations to take action.
We welcome you comments and additions. Why? Because if we’re gonna clear the swamp it’s up to us. Period.
So, today we begin with public pressure.
As Common Cause founder John Gardner used to say: Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s shame and ostracize the abusers.
The Athenians kicked the ‘unwanted’ out of their city for ten years. If they showed their faces in the city during that period, they could be put to death. Now, The Agitator is not quite that extreme; we don’t endorse capital punishment or even cutting off thumbs.
But we’re sure that creative minds in our sector can come up with modern day equivalents. Here are some ‘starter’ ideas:
- A simple beginning … if you’re a blogger or fundraising firm, use your online presence to publicize this list of the professional solicitors used by the Worst 50 Charities in America as compiled by the Tampa Bay Times/Center for Investigative Reporting.
- Start a Facebook page — The Fundraising Hall of Shame — fueled by all of us ‘whistleblowers’ in the sector, that displays who these characters are and who they are working with – the ‘fundraisers’, their lawyers and accountants, their ‘clients’. What are the perks they give and get? What are their individual rip-off stories and tactics? Let’s make them as visible as we can.
- Then, let’s bar them from honest fundraising conferences and events – persona non grata. Unwanted. Ostracized. Don’t take their registrations. Don’t invite their speakers. Don’t welcome their booths. Don’t participate in events they sponsor.
- And let’s call upon the media who serve our sector – like the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fundraising Success and Non-Profit Times – to publicize their misdeeds as well and to reject their PR and advertising.
In short, let’s make them so unwanted that no respectable player in the field of fundraising – whatever your role, client or vendor – will have anything to do with them.
And let’s not forget the miscreant nonprofits themselves. After all they’re willingly or ignorantly serving as magnets of misrepresentation in attracting donor dollars.
How many millions do you want to see ripped off each year … with no consequences?
Ripped off from trusting donors, who have virtually no means of defense. And ripped off from legitimate charities and causes … because the donation pot has been siphoned and reputations of legitimate charities have been hijacked.
This is what we see as guerrilla warfare. Taking matters into our own hands to protect our profession, the charities and causes we serve, and the donors to whom we owe our highest responsibility.
We ask you … What is your appetite for taking the battle to these sleaze balls?
Roger and Tom
P.S. Next week: Taking them on ‘officially’ through our trade groups and regulators.