For the first time, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), which represents about 32,000 national and international fundraising individuals and organizations, has designated October as Ethics Awareness Month.
Like Independent Sector, AFP believes it’s critical that fundraising professionals adhere to ethical standards of practice. They cite two reasons for designating a special month: first, to raise awareness about the importance of ethical behavior – not just among fundraisers, but the entire sector. And secondly, according to Michael Nilsen, vice president of marketing, communications and public policy at AFP, “to get our members and others to think of ethics beyond fundraising, as a way of living. It’s how we approach problems and how we think about bringing people together to solve them. Part of it is less tactical, less black and white, and more like thinking about ethics in terms of how you approach challenges and what ethical values guide your decision-making.”
According to Michael, “October is the beginning of the informal giving season, which lasts through December, and AFP’s research shows that most charities receive a third to more than half of their yearly gifts through the last quarter of the year. So we think it’s an important time when charities raise a lot of money, and need to raise a lot of money…to focus on ethics and the importance of trust and doing the right things when there’s pressure to raise a lot of money. That’s true anytime, but particularly during giving season.”
Special Ethics Awareness Month Focus
AFP has a number of things underway to celebrate Ethics Awareness Month and help its members and the entire sector live ethics, grow their ethical skills, and demonstrate their commitment to the highest ethical standards. In addition to revamping the Ethics section on their website, Ethics Awareness Month activities include:
- A blog post from AFP President and CEO Mike Geiger on Ethics Awareness Month
- A podcast featuring nonprofit sector leaders, including IS President and CEO Dan Cardinali
- Articles every day in October that take a deep dive into each of the 25 ethical standards in AFP’s Code
Jason Lee, chief advocacy and strategy officer and general counsel at AFP, says the organization is hopeful that everyone will stay focused on ethics as they go into giving season. “We’re trying to ensure we have the trust of the government, the public, and donors. So it’s important to be cognizant of ethical issues and the pressure we feel to raise funds as we go into this busy season. To maximize your ability to do well, if you’re seen as having integrity and upholding ethics, and your donors know that, and the community knows that, it makes your job easier.”
Jason underscores that “there’s a code that oversees the profession and makes the sector stronger as a whole, and looking at it from a broad standpoint within your organization and having an ethical compass is part of that. It’s about understanding how we can grow charitable dollars in a way that is intentional and ethical.”
Michael adds, “Ethics are important all of the time, but situations keep occurring all of the time, too. The Jeffrey Epstein controversy is just the latest, and sooner or later there’ll be another one, sadly. So Ethics Awareness Month is about keeping in people’s minds that we always, always, always have to keep ethics and our ethical principles and values at the forefront. One little slip-up can cause things to get out of control. And you can’t play catch-up on this either.
“We want to make sure charities get that message and are always proactive and thinking about being ethical in their approach to dilemmas and situations. You always have to make sure you’re doing all of the right things in the right way all the time.”
Learn more about Ethics Awareness Month on AFP’s website.