Friday, February 26, 2010

Fundraising Down Under and Automatic Gift Upgrades

I had the opportunity recently to attend the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s (FIA) Terra Rossa (Red Earth) Fundraising Conference. FIA is a great and important partner with AFP, and we’ve worked with them on many projects. Chris McMillan, president and CEO of FIA, and her staff team were terrific. This was Chris' first FIA Conference, and we welcome her to the global fundraising community.

The educational program featured over 350 fundraising professionals from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Guy Mallabone and Ted Hart both presented Master class programs, and Ted gave a great opening plenary based on his book, A Nonprofit’s Guide to Going Green.

Dr. Wendy Scaife, with the Center of Philanthropy & Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology, presented her latest research, which she conducted with major donors in Australia. There were many similarities between Dr. Scaife's findings and what I hear from fundraising professionals across the globe—key messages such as the importance of transparency and continuing to ask. Sound familiar? I find it comforting (and even a bit inspiring) that we find so many similarities among donors around the world. We are truly a universal profession, and donors everywhere are motivated by and concerned about the same types of issues.

I participated on an ethics panel with Margaret Scott, a past FIA chair, who facilitated a dialogue about three different ethical situations. The one that garnered the most interest from both participants and panel members was on automatic upgrades for monthly giving programs.

Each of the panel members was asked to respond to the case. I responded that AFP's Code of Ethical Principles and Standards is clear and referenced Standard 16 on this matter: Donors must be given notice and the opportunity to opt-out of such programs. Another FIA panel member offered a different perspective, noting the cost of doing this type of notice and opt-out and asking attendees if the cost-efficiency factor would outweigh the donor's rights.

Other perspectives were that the organization's reputation and donor relationships were more important than the expense of the notice. Most came down on the side of providing donors with notice and the ability to opt-out of automatic upgrades. Someone in the audience made an excellent point that we should not think that just because a donor doesn’t complain means that we are “home free.” Our organizations could lose much more from an unhappy donor who posts his/her complaints in a video on YouTube. Food for thought for those of you considering automatic upgrades for monthly donors, or for any aspect of your fundraising program for that matter.

I hope your fundraising is going well!

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