Bourbon, Ethics, Fundraising

3D colorful signpost with four arrows - "right", "wrong", "decision", "choice".

Right or wrong? Good or evil? Proper or improper? Just do the right thing! Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But what happens when you run into an “ethical” quandary?

Good Ole’ Granddad

Your organization helps teenagers with substance abuse. One of your board members announces he’s received a large inheritance from his grandfather and is going to donate $250,000 in his grandfather’s name. The local paper discovers granddad made his money from the sale and distribution of alcohol. Your policies and procedures state that all alcohol-related gifts are unacceptable.

With any fundraising ethical dilemma, you need to answer seven questions:

  1. Have you accurately defined the problem?
  2. How did this situation occur in the first place?
  3. What is your intention in making this decision?
  4. Whom could your decision ­injure?
  5. Can you discuss the problem with the affected parties before you make a decision?
  6. Are you confident your decision will be valid in the future?
  7. Can you confidently discuss your decision with your boss, family or even the media?

This situation was handled as follows:

All ethical dilemmas are tricky. This one is no exception. Whenever an organization is faced with an ethical dilemma they should ask many questions before making a final decision.

Here are some of the questions the board should ask:

  • Tell us more about granddad. Was he a moonshiner or did he own a brewery?
  • When he made his money did he keep it in a mattress or invest it in IBM and Disney?
  • The board member making the gift knows the organizational policies, why would he assume this gift would be acceptable?
  • How far removed from an “identified vice” must a gift be to be considered acceptable?
  • Why would the local newspaper research grandad? Was he famous? Infamous? Or does someone at the newspaper hold a grudge?

This is a real dilemma. Here’s how it turned out. The gift was in Disney stock and it was accepted by the organization. Grandfather owned not only a brewery, but a trucking firm that distributed the product and an advertising company. Grandfather was a community leader and respected in the community — except by the newspaper. Grandfather tried to buy the local paper but was unsuccessful.

(Note, the author, Bill Harrison, is a nationally recognized fundraiser, an award-winning author, respected teacher and dynamic speaker.

“Tainted Money/Gifts?” Read more here.

Leave a reply