This is the first in a series of articles
on the Donor Bill of Rights;
links to other articles
are below.

The Donor’s Bill of Rights— adopted jointly by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), and the Giving Institute (formerly the AAFRC)— is an effort by leading professional organizations in the nonprofit sector to introduce a formalized code of ethics to the philanthropic professions.

Any philanthropy professional worth his or her salt is, or should be, on intimate terms with this code. It outlines the backbone of trust, which lies at the heart of all philanthropy, and organizations who ignore these tenets do so at their peril.

As the Ten Commandments of the Bible outline principles for living in right relationship with God and one’s neighbor, the Donor’s Bill of Rights establishes principles for living in right relationship with donors and volunteers. But, like the Ten Commandments—or anything else with which one might be familiar— there is a pitfall to avoid.

Familiarity sometimes causes people to stop listening as intently as when the information was fresh and new. “Oh yeah, I’ve heard all this before…” That’s a problem, because there are always new insights to be gained by a thoughtful revisiting of the material.

With that in mind, I plan to do a series of posts on the Donor’s Bill of Rights over the next several months, as I prepare to sit for the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) exam. Periodically, and interspersed among posts on other topics, I’ll reflect on one donor’s right at a time, and I invite readers to join the discussion in the comments section. Each right will get its own post, but I will update this page with links to each one for convenience. I won’t necessarily go in order, and I plan to engage on this topic over a period of several months. My hope is to generate some good discussion.

In the meantime, I am grateful to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) for granting me permission to reproduce the text below…


A Donor’s Bill of Rights

Philanthropy is based on voluntary action for the common good. It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life. To ensure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the nonprofit organizations and causes they are asked to support, we declare that all donors have these rights:

  1. To be informed of the organization’s mission, of the way the organization intends to use donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.
  2. To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities.
  3. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements.
  4. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.
  5. To receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition.
  6. To be assured that information about their donation is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.
  7. To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature.
  8. To be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors.
  9. To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.
  10. To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.

©2018, Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), all rights reserved. Posted here with permission from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


My Posts on the Donor Bill of Rights…

  1. Don’t Hide Your Hand from Your Donors
  2. Donor Rights and the Nonprofit Board
  3. Keep Donors Informed: Open Up the Books
  4. Thou Shalt Not Kiss Off Donor Intent
  5. [coming soon]
  6. [coming soon]
  7. [coming soon]
  8. [coming soon]
  9. [coming soon]
  10. [coming soon]

Question: What are your thoughts about the Donor’s Bill of Rights overall? Would you change anything? Leave a reply below.

Posted by Mark Zobel, Ph.D., C.F.R.M.

Executive Director for Philanthropy and Stewardship, and Adjunct Professor of Philanthropy at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois

4 Comments

  1. […] third tenet of the Donor’s Bill of Rights: “…to have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements” […]

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  2. […] second tenet of the Donor’s Bill of Rights: “…to be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s […]

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  3. […] first tenet of the Donor’s Bill of Rights: “…to be informed of the organization’s mission, of the way an organization […]

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  4. […] fourth tenet of the Donor’s Bill of Rights: “…to be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were […]

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