Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spike Lee and Donor Relations

So I'm not here to talk about the Knicks, but I am here to tell you about the challenges that we face in the sensitive area of donor relations. Anytime there are large amounts of money involved, and anytime there is a great deal at stake, murky waters arrive.

So here is the advice I'm going to give you that I borrowed from my friend Spike: DO THE RIGHT THING
Every time, every day in every way.

Fight the good fight and always be on the right side of the rules when it comes to donor relations. Here's why; it may not always be easy, it may not always win you friends on your staff, but at the end of the day, you can look yourself in the mirror and not worry about ending up on the 11 o clock news. Or even worse, on the front page of the Chronicle of Philanthropy or New York Times.

It isn't always easy to do the right thing when it comes to donations and donors, there is a great deal of pressure. And in fact, in our industry, everyone doesn't always send the right message. As a consultant,  when I get on my soapbox, I often hear people say that "organization X across the street does it that way so it must be ok" or "it's such a small thing, who will care?" I care, and you should too.

Here are some of the sticky things we face that I want you to know about and avoid any entanglements at all. If you need help or resources I am happy to provide them for you.

Quid Pro Quo laws and token gift items
Allowing donors to pay pledges or buy event tickets with Donor Advised Fund monies
Fudging matching gift forms to ensure the match goes through
FERPA violations of sharing student data without their permission
Allowing donors to be involved (at ALL) in the selection of their scholarship or faculty chair recipients
Not spending donor monies the way you agreed to
Having donor relations involved in how the money is spent (ie. donor relations awarding scholarships)
Not protecting your donor's sensitive data
Over promising deliverables in gift agreements that you can't deliver
Not counting or booking gifts correctly to enhance numbers or giving percentages

Now, I'm not chicken little and the sky isn't falling. But I can tell you every time I read a headline that involves this I just shake my head and I hope it's not someone I know. You need to be aware, you need to make your leadership aware. Keep running the flag up the pole until someone listens and takes action. You will never regret doing the right thing. And in case you need some ammunition to help you fight the good fight, here you go:

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