The seventh tenet of the Donor’s Bill of Rights:
“…to expect that all relationships
with individuals representing organizations
of interest to the donor will be
professional in nature”
(other tenets here…)
PROFESSIONAL | prəˈfeSH(ə)n(ə)l | Adjective 1. relating to or belonging to a profession: 2. engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime: 3. worthy of or appropriate to a professional person; competent, skillful, or assured:
This seventh tenet of the Donor Bill of Rights seems to me to occupy a somewhat slippery slope, insofar as much well-conducted fundraising is done by people who are not “professionals” in the typical sense. Indeed, volunteers are quite often the best fundraising advocates for an organization, and I have lost count of the number of times I have involved them in the solicitation process. Thus, we need to be a bit careful when invoking this term and, really, I prefer the last three words of definition #3 above: “competent, skillful, or assured.” While this may seem obvious, common sense – as I often like to point out – is not as common as it once was, and so it bears repeating.
Being professional does not mean being stilted or stodgy, but it does mean comporting oneself in a manner that dignifies the proposition being made to the donor. Whoever solicits for a worthy cause – be it a volunteer or a paid fundraiser – becomes the face of that cause to the donor. As Hank Rosso (1918-1999) once pointed out, fundraising “isn’t a simple process of begging–it is a process of transferring the importance of the project to the donor.” Sloppy soliciting risks masking that importance behind a veneer of ineptness at best and trivialization at worst.
Always remember that people do not give to organizations. Rather, they give to people and causes in which they believe. Silly, irreverent behavior does more damage to a donor’s perception of worthiness than an ill-crafted direct mail appeal, so take this one seriously. The cause is worth it.