Guest Post: Sweat the Fundamentals

Photo by Catie Kaoe

Thank you to Rich Cowles, Executive Director at the Charities Review Council for providing this week’s guest post!
 
Sweat the Fundamentals

When you read or hear about an organization in an embarrassing situation, it generally stems from inattention to seemingly small stuff. A couple of examples:

-A respected human service organization sent a year-end fundraising appeal with an emotional message that included this line: “While you will be receiving many appeals for funds this time of year, this one is the most important.” While the message was heartfelt, it likely turned off some of the organization’s supporters who may not have shared the same pecking order of importance. The nonprofit forgot a basic tenet of ethical fundraising–tell your story but don’t cross the line toward manipulation. Honor the voluntary nature of giving, and leave the decision to the donor.

-A successful, large nonprofit that had taken pains to demonstrate accountability–including putting its conflict of interest policy on its Website–found itself in newspapers uncomfortably explaining why it had bought property from a relative of a board member who participated in the discussion and vote. No one had remembered to invoke their conflict of interest policy.

The Charities Review Council has a number of model policies that can be tailored to your use, including a conflict of interest policy that can help keep it alive. It requires annual disclosure of potential conflicts by all board and key staff. Sweating the small stuff can keep you out of an uncomfortable spotlight that threatens to undo all the good work you’ve done to be transparent and accountable.

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