Ethics of Fundraising
There are a number of moral issues arising when fundraising, how far can shock tactics be used to get a point across, what responsibilities you have when accepting funds, this can be made simpler by having an Acceptance of Funds policy, what legal duties do you have under the Data Protection Act and what measures to you take to respect privacy of donors and those you are helping. You may also need to consider how you will deal with handling complaints.
The FundRaising Standards Board was set up in 2006, oversee a transparent and independent scheme for fundraising, encouraging high standards so that public confidence in charitable giving can be increased.
The FSBs visible mark is the tick logo which our members are expected to use on all their marketing and fundraising materials. This is the publics mark of reassurance; a sign of the charity’s commitment to best practice in all fundraising activities.
EFA Codes of Fundraising Practice
The Institute of Fundraising developed on behalf of the EFA a source document for a “Common Code of International Ethics for Fundraisers” which is based on an evaluation of national codes of ethics that were provided by national bodies of fundraisers. 50 countries were contacted; contacts included fundraisers, charities or governments. National bodies of 17 countries provided their code of ethics for fundraisers, while 12 countries do not have any codes and all remaining contacts could not provide any information regarding this enquiry. Based upon this, the EFA has played a major role in developing an International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising.
Twenty-four countries approved the International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising, the culmination of four years of international dialogue. This is an historic moment of which fundraisers can be rightfully proud, marking the occasion of the first formal document governing fundraising activity worldwide. The meeting was the fourth International Summit, commencing in Toronto in 2003 and concluding in Noordwijkerhout in the Netherlands in 2006. It is the purpose of this Statement of Ethical Principles to foster the growth of a worldwide fundraising community.
Fundraisers work in many varied fields, countries and circumstances. They share several fundamental values and practices. They work to make the world a better place. It is for these reasons that fundraisers strive to identify and employ best ethical practices which will build public trust and encourage philanthropy.The document identifies five key principles: honesty, respect, integrity, empathy and transparency.
It is expected that fundraisers adhering to the International Statement will, first and foremost, adhere to the most rigorous interpretation of the law, and of the Code of Ethics of their own membership associations.
The six areas of responsibility address donations, stakeholders, communications, reporting, payments and national laws. Standards for each of these areas are elaborated in the Statement.
Over 30 participating national associations ratified the code in 2007.
1. International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising (October 2006)
2. Context Document for the International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising (October 2006)
3. Proposal for a Common Code of International Ethics for Fundraisers (2004)
There are two kinds of privacy that you should be aware of:
the privacy of the people you are helping
the privacy of the subjects of your campaigns – members and donors.
The privacy of those you are helping
The importance of considering the privacy of those you are helping is common to both fundraising and issue campaigning. It has been highlighted by cases of disabled people who have felt that they were being made into objects of charity, and not recognised for their talents or for the problems they faced in their everyday lives.
Remember that every campaign carries at least two messages:
the clear call for funds
what you are saying in general about the set of people or conditions you are trying to help.
Featuring disabled people in asking for funds can also cast them as helpless individuals. Showing starving children can also carry a message of hopelessness about the country they are in, and depicting rainforest destruction can lead to simplistic assumptions about the perpetrators. There are no clear guidelines for these cases, but you do need to consider all the messages you are sending, and how they square with your organisation’s overall aims and objectives. No one wishes to end up doing more harm than good, and you will often have to make some hard decisions; but that is preferable to inadvertently campaigning against yourself or giving up an excellent fundraising campaign because of uninformed worry. Asking the people you feature for their opinion can be an eye-opener and every fundraiser should do it.
The privacy of the donor
When there is a disaster in a small town, everyone rallies round to help. People knock on each other’s doors, ring each other up, and write to people further away who could help. This is perfectly normal and praiseworthy human action.
When the disaster is in another country or another town, or even not quite so visible, we are often suddenly afraid that people may be offended if we ask them for assistance, and we worry about putting undue pressure on them to help. This is the fear of poor excuses – and it can paralyse organisations.
Many people feel that they should help, but do not really wish to, and to avoid making a plain statement of this fact, they hide behind a variety of simple subterfuges. First among these is to attack the medium, rather than the message: ‘It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help, but I don’t think you should send junk mail, phone people up, spend all that money on advertising or put leaflets in magazines – its such a waste.’ If accepted at face value, all this would leave a fundraiser rather baffled in the search for a universally acceptable means of fundraising.
People react differently to different media. Some people love it when their favourite charity calls them up personally. Other people don’t like it at all. Some people like to sit and read through long letters explaining what a charity does and why it needs money. Others regard this as junk mail and a threat to trees. There is no universally acceptable means of fundraising, and there will be some objections to everything you do. Be prepared for this, and think through how you will respond to the most likely criticisms. If people tell you they do not want to receive telephone calls, take note of it and do not call them again. If you cannot record and deal with this you are not ready for telemarketing. You must also deduplicate your list against the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) list.
Other media are harder to deal with. When undertaking reciprocal mailings, you should, however, de-duplicate your list both against the other organisation’s list and against the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) scheme, and ensure that the lists you buy are similarly treated. If your targeting is accurate, people may receive several mail shots from you and will see your advertisements and read your loose-leaf inserts. They take this personally, with a touching faith that every communication you send out is targeted deliberately and personally at each individual who reads it. Often you will write to your own members, asking them to join. Even if you de-duplicate (using specialist software to eliminate duplicate names and addresses) bought-in lists against your membership list this is still likely, as people write their names and addresses differently on different forms. Adding a phrase like, ‘if you are already a member, please pass this appeal on to a friend’ can assist you in not offending your members and increasing your support.
The Distinction between ‘Shock’ and ‘Offence’
The use of ‘shock tactics’ in fundraising has caused a lot of debate, and in some organisations concern about it has got to such a point that making the simplest case for supporting your organisation may have to be watered down so much, in case someone is offended, that no one will ever feel it is particularly important to help your cause.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) makes a very useful distinction between shock and offence. Basically, it is wrong to offend someone; but the nature of many charities’ work is such that it is not surprising if it shocks. Shock is a natural reaction to the horrors we are trying to alleviate. Offence is more difficult to define, but its essence is the gratuitous hurt that people feel when they are the targets of an attack. Unfortunately, this can happen inadvertently if copy is not thought through from the reader’s perspective. Naturally, biased and bigoted people will claim to be offended by many things, but anyone intending to put forward a strong case for supporting a needy cause must take that in their stride. Setting out factually what has happened to people, however shocking, cannot legitimately be held to be giving offence.
In January 2000 the ASA rejected 28 complaints attacking a series of advertisements that Barnardo’s had run in the national press featuring a baby injecting heroin. The ASA said that Barnardo’s had tried to convey a “serious and important message” in using this “stark image”. When the advertisement had first appeared the Committee of Advertising Practice (which writes the code administered by the ASA) had asked publications not to use it. Barnardo’s said “We are a charity trying to raise awareness of our work aimed at creating better futures for children and young people threatened by disadvantage abuse and neglect. This message is clearly reflected in our advertising.” The ASA said” Because the advertisers used the image to raise awareness of the seriousness of drug abuse, and the action that could be taken to prevent it, the advertisement was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or undue distress”.
In seeking to give potential donors the chance to empathise with suffering individuals, it is necessary to let them know just what has happened to those individuals. Group suffering rarely has the same effect, and mass tragedies can only be comprehended through the stories of single people, but you do need to consider the wishes of those people whose plight you depict. Nearly always, they are more than willing for their story to be told, but you should ensure that those who do not wish for publicity are not exposed.
Changing names and some other details to protect identity is quite
As far as possible, you should identify the people in photographs,
which should not be used without thought for the subjects or the reasons why they were taken.
The use of ‘composite’ cases raises more questions. Here charities give a typical example of the kind of person they are setting out to help, rather than giving a true case history. These pictures often combine several case histories into one story. This can give a more correct image of who is being helped by the donor’s money, but you should be very careful to make it clear what you are doing, so that people are not misled into thinking you are presenting an actual case.
A composite should never be a substitute for proper research.
Be very wary of the copywriting of composites, as this can tend to
shift from a typical case towards an extreme, which may not truly reflect your work.
If in doubt, use real cases, and vary them through your campaign,
so that the differences in cases comes across.
Data Protection Act
The Data Protection Act, appropriately passed in 1984 and augmented in 1998, sets out to protect personal privacy under threat from the rapid development of computer systems capable of holding and processing vast amounts of information on individuals. The 1998 Act is far more stringent that the 1984 Act.
For the full details look at: www.dataprotection.gov.uk The new act is so all encompassing that every fundraiser should be aware of its contents and should take a systematic approach to its observation. All organisations should have policies in place, which will ensure that staff conform to the data protection principles. A working knowledge of the eight principles is essential
1. “Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless –
· at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met · in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.”
This principles introduces “sensitive personal data” which is personal data consisting of information as to:-
a) the race or ethnic origin of the data subject, b) their political opinions, c) their religious beliefs or beliefs of a similar nature, d) whether they are members of a trade union, e) their physical or mental health or condition, f) their sexual life, g) the commission or alleged commission by them of any offence, or h) any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by them, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.
Unless you have a thorough knowledge and certainty about your right to process and hold such data my advice is not to hold any such sensitive personal data. The conditions for holding or processing such data are much tighter than for other personal data including, in some cases, “explicit” consent.
2. “Personal data shall be obtained for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.”
3. “Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.”
4. “Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date”.
5. “personal data processed for any purpose shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose”.
6. “Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act.”
7. “Appropriate technological and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data”.
The New Act not only requires the registration of ‘personal data’, which is ‘automatically processed’ (by computer), it also covers other records including card index files. The Act also allows ‘data subjects’ access to that information and to have it corrected or deleted. On making a written request, the data user is obliged to give you a copy of that information. The data user can charge a limited fee per entry for supplying that information. Your request should usually be met within 40 days. If not, you can complain to the Registrar, (an independent officer reporting directly to Parliament) or to the courts. Most fundraisers will be ‘data users’, who control the contents and use of personal data on their donors or potential donors.
This can be personal data on individuals as well as companies, charities etc., and includes any information about living, identifiable individuals, even just their name and address. They must be registered with the Registrar under the various categories for which the data is intended to be used. It is important to register in every category which you are likely to need, as failure to register is an offence. Some of these categories are decidedly quirky, for example, the Registrar regards reciprocal mailings as ‘trading’ not ‘direct mail’.
The Registrar has drawn up a series of Guidelines which can be obtained from the Information Services Department, Office of the Data Protection Registrar, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF, Tel: 01625 535 777, Fax: 01625 524510, where registration forms can also be obtained. When you apply to register you will need to state:
the personal data held
the purpose for which it is used
the sources from which the information may be obtained
the people to whom the information may be disclosed, i.e. shown or passed on to
any overseas countries or territories to which the data may be transferred.
Think carefully about every other use of personal data in your organisation and make sure you are registered for it.
You must be clearly aware of, and follow, the broad principles of good practice contained in the 1984 Act. These are that personal data must be:
obtained and processed fairly and lawfully
held only for the lawful purposes described in the data user’s entry
used only for those purposes and disclosed only to those people described in the register entry
adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purpose for which it is held
accurate, and where necessary, kept up-to-date
held no longer than is necessary for the registered purpose
accessible to the individual concerned who, where appropriate, has the right to have the information about themselves corrected or erased
surrounded by proper security.
If, for example, you collect signatures on a petition, the data cannot be used to send those people a request to join your organisation, however briefly, unless you are registered for that purpose and the code is followed. You should be sure that you:
have obtained the information fairly, e.g., have stated as clearly as the main copy on that form, that you will do this, (or asked those signing to tick a request box for membership information)
can record the data accurately
are able to adequately protect that data, and will not keep it for an unreasonably long time
can prevent casual passers-by reading such data off the screens of authorised users
can ensure only authorised users in your organisation access such data delete files when they are no longer relevant (and know just when this is).
To thoroughly understand the requirements, you need to have a good knowledge of the Guidelines which are quite comprehensive. It is apparent, however, that some elements have not been thought through and others are not keeping up with the changing pace of technology.
It is in the public’s and the NGO’s interest for mailings to be as exactly targeted as possible, yet some of the guidelines seek to restrict the information held so that organisations are obliged to mail many more people than is necessary. Building up large amounts of information on donors enables their needs to be closely catered for, yet the direction and tenor of the guidelines is against this. If you engage in reciprocal mailings you are advised to state this and seek permission from all donors or members at the point at which they join the organisation. To do this would clearly make it impossibly expensive for many organisations to recruit through newspaper advertising, and would affect all other recruitment methods. A more sensible approach would have been to acknowledge that receiving information from like minded organisations is part and parcel of being a member or donor in the 3rd Millennium. This would also avoid countless other individuals receiving letters that are inappropriate and enables charities to grow cost-effectively.
One phrase over which fundraisers and the registrar may well disagree is: “As guidance in this respect the Commissioner would advise that data controllers consider the extent to which the use of personal data by them is or is not reasonably forseeable by data subjects. To the extent to which their use of personal data is not reasonably forseeable, data controllers should ensure that they provide such further information as may be necessary”. Of course, someone making a donation to a charity would expect to be welcomed on board with a telephone call, to receive further requests for donations, newsletters, raffle tickets and requests to join other organisations. Unless, you have cut yourself off from the world all this is quite reasonably forseeable. However, I would expect a degree of apoplexy from some older data subjects who have steadfastly ignored any changes since the wheel was invented.
Today, many homes are equipped with computers linked to the Internet with email facilities and databases on CD-ROMs. Thousands of people may be in breach of the Act as they build up lists of names and addresses and process them for a variety of business related purposes.
There are, however, some exceptions to the 1984 Act and registration may not be necessary where personal data are:
held in connection with personal, family or household affairs or for recreational use
used only for preparing the text of documents
used for calculating wages and pensions, keeping accounts or
keeping records of purchases and sales for accounting purposes only
used for distributing articles or information to data subjects held by a sports or recreational club which is not a limited company. In relation to the final two points, data subjects must be asked if they object to the use of their details. You have been warned! Check Guideline 6 carefully if you intend to rely on an exception.
Ultimately the guidelines ar only the Registrar’s view of the Act and not a substiture for it. Your own view may be equally correct until a precedent is established through a court case.
Europe-wide legislation has now been incorporated into the 1989 Act. As we have a legal system based on precedent, the exact meaning of the law will not become clear until it has been tested in practice in the courts. Do endeavour not to be the subject of those tests.