Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - 8

Ethics
It sounds like you're saying that if a donor's reason
for giving isn't in line with your organization's
mission, you would politely decline the gift. Is
that accurate?
Yes, it is. And it depends on the mission. At Planned
Parenthood, the reasons why we might or might not accept
a gift could be very different from why, for instance, a
drug rehabilitation organization would not accept a gift.
There are very good reasons why such an organization
would not accept a donation from a cigarette company or
pharmaceutical companies identified as being responsible
for the opioid crisis. Those things are easy to identify, but it
really depends on the situation.
I would not dismiss a gift without having all the
information needed to make a decision. There was another
situation not too long ago where a donor unfamiliar to
us made us the sole beneficiary to their estate. Once we
found out more information about the donor and the
circumstances surrounding the gift, we suspected this
person made Planned Parenthood the beneficiary because
they knew the gift would enrage their family.
It was clear to us that we would need to go to court. I
recommended to the CEO, who then recommended to the
board, that we not accept the gift. In such cases, my job
as a donor advocate is to represent the donor's intent. If I
previously met with or even spoken to this donor and they
expressed to me their support of our organization and why
it was important for them to make this gift, I would have
also asked questions about the impact this gift would have
on their surviving family members. And, while this gift was
declined, there was a different case, with a similar situation,
where we were prepared to go to court because I knew the
donor and could represent their intention.
At the end of the day, when organizations find it
necessary to ask whether they should or should not
accept a gift, that's reason enough to ask thoughtful and
clarifying questions, such as, is this going to harm our
mission or hurt our patients?

At what point do you begin to scrutinize donations?
For instance, if a celebrity was arrested, but they
wanted to give your organization $1,000, what
would be your thought process on accepting or not
accepting the donation?
If there is a red flag, I don't like to make decisions of this
nature in a vacuum. I will talk to other team members or
the CEO, and sometimes we have to speak with board
members and attorneys.
As a professional, I am not just representing myself,
or only advocating for donors, I also have a responsibility

8	

Advancing Philanthropy	

to the community we serve. My obligation is not just to
just accept gifts, but to raise questions: Does the person's
support cause harm to our patients? Is it racially or
ethically hurtful? If it doesn't harm the people you serve
or your mission, you have to understand, and sometimes
be able to reconcile, why donors support your cause.
Sometimes the reasons are very surprising.

You've been referring to corporations and the
money they give for different causes as well as how
money was made versus a tainted donor who has
personally done something wrong. Does that make
a difference?
It does. If the person is tainted, I would be concerned
about connecting my organization to them. If they are
going up in flames, you're going up in flames too. If
someone is accused of wrongdoing and it's adjudicated,
and they are innocent, then you might be able to continue
to work with them. But, if it's something inflammatory
and you need to cut ties immediately, you can say you
won't accept any additional gifts from this person until
the issue is resolved.
If they're found guilty, then you have to make more
decisions about their previous gifts. Determine if
there are things from which you can distance yourself,
such as something that is named after the person or if
they've set up a foundation where it names specifically
your organization as a beneficiary. Do you continue
accepting those gifts? For me, there are clear examples
of when you do not take a gift, or you stop taking a gift
versus continuing the relationship. As much as possible,
fundraising should be relational connections. When
organizations are taking especially large gifts without
getting to know the donors, problems can easily arise.
If you're doing your due diligence-building
relationships and not simply being a transactional entity
whose stewardship practices are primarily to take in
gifts and send out letters-you'll already ask a lot of
questions along the way. This helps to build donor profiles
or dossiers where you'll find out more about them.
Philanthropy is not just about our needs, it's about the
needs of our donors as well.
Questions I ask include: Why are you giving us this
money? What kind of impact would you like to make?
Why is this mission important to you? How does your
family feel about Planned Parenthood? Ask these types
of questions and you may find information that will help
you if something were to happen in the future. You can
at least say, "We had lots of conversations and talked
about lots of things, and we never knew this was an

October 2020 / www.afpglobal.org


http://www.afpglobal.org

Advancing Philanthropy October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Advancing Philanthropy October 2020

Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - Cover1
Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - Cover2
Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - 1
Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - 2
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