Grant professional have grant-related ethics to protect donors, organizations, and themselves—all at the same time. It’s important to adhere to these ethics, which reflect the highest standards in professional behavior. Come away from this episode with a deeper understanding of grant ethics and how to apply them throughout the grant cycle.
- Why ethics are important to the grant profession.
- How the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Code of Ethics applies to both consultants and staff members.
- How to discuss grant ethics with your donors, organization, and other constituents.
- The #1 grant-related ethics question and how to answer it.
Dave brings more than 30 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management. Dave has worked with education, health, and disability nonprofits throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Dave served on the Grant Professionals Association’s Ethics Committee. In 2016, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International recognized Dave as one of the first six Distinguished Fellows of AFP (FAFP). In 2013 Dave was honored as AFP Western Pennsylvania Chapter’s Outstanding Fundraising Executive. Dave was appointed to the Brentwood School Board in 2020 and was elected to his first full term in 2021.
- AFP Code of Ethics
- Compass: Connect with other members of the philanthropic community at Community.foundant.com
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- Website: Foundant.com
Logan Colegrove 00:00:01:11
Welcome to Connected Philanthropy. In today's episode, Dave Tinker from Ghostbusters Consulting discusses the crucial role of ethics in the fundraising profession. This discussion comes from a recorded webinar that found it hosted and the topics covered were the relevance of ethics in various contexts. The Code of ethics used by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in the changing landscape of Technology, public trusts and Conflicts of Interest.
Logan Colegrove 00:00:34:14
So without further ado, let's dive right in. Here's Dave.
Dave Tinker 00:00:39:07
First, just want to share briefly what we're going to go over will learn why ethics are important in our fundraising profession. And it's not just people working at a nonprofit in fundraising, but it's consultants, it's the vendors, it's the other staff within the organization, which is to everybody really, you know, you learn all the different codes of ethics apply to, you know, again, both consultants and staff members learn how to discuss ethics within your organization, with your donors and others.
Dave Tinker 00:01:05:15
But, you know, and then we'll go over the number one question that's related to ethics that's always asked. And it's not it's not just any one field or profession or association where it's asking seems to be every nonprofit and whatever your role is at your nonprofit, everyone seems to have the same question, but it gets asked most often.
Dave Tinker 00:01:26:16
Something I'm fond of saying is just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ethical. And that's true. And just because, you know, legality might be one thing, but ethics are, you know, something that makes us a profession. So that's important to remember. So one of the one of the groups that wanted to share that has the main code of ethics, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or AFP.
Dave Tinker 00:01:53:16
To my knowledge, it's one of the oldest ethical codes in fundraising because it was originally created in 1964, this code of Ethics. Many other organizations and associations referenced this and based their own code of ethics on it. I know as a former member of the Code of Ethics, the Grant Professional Associations Code of Ethics was originally based on this format and AP code of ethics.
Dave Tinker 00:02:20:08
I'm a public school board member and there are public education foundations and there are fundraisers for those that have their own association, and they tell people to follow the AP Code of ethics. Many, many professional associations in whatever niche area you're within, within nonprofits when it comes to ethics, goes back to this because it's not just talking about fundraising and the code of ethics, which can be downloaded from this here is for anybody.
Dave Tinker 00:02:48:07
You don't have to be a member to all. It first is definitely it's not stat. So this has obviously been updated. Last time, the last big update was actually nine years ago, but they're in the process updating again, partly because there's so much has changed. There are still things that are immediate that we try to reach out to.
Dave Tinker 00:03:10:14
But technology has had such an important role in the work that we do, and that's changing so fast that we try to keep up with it. And ethics is one way you need to do that. But there's a couple of key areas, whether it's public trust. Trust is such a big area when it comes to fundraising in general.
Dave Tinker 00:03:30:15
You know, without trust, you know, your donors aren't necessarily give to you or give you the what they potentially would. And, you know, if you're a big fan of management books, you know, Patrick, once again, these five dysfunctions of the team Trust is the big area. If you don't have trust, your team is super dysfunctional, but you need trust, you know, and we're what happens when there's conflicts of interest, solicitation and stewardship of funds, how to how to do that in an ethical manner, treatment of confidential proprietary information.
Dave Tinker 00:04:00:11
More and more. There's so much information we collect thanks to tools such as Tom's tools. But there's a lot of information we collect we don't necessarily need to collect or there's information we get that we're not sure where it comes from, that you have things you need to think about, what you put into your CRM or your grants management system, your reporting system, whatever it is.
Dave Tinker 00:04:22:17
Now, the GPA code of ethics or grant professional code of ethics is, you know, this is similar to another document anybody is able to get. You can download it from the link I shared here. It is also broken out into a couple of key areas, you know, professional obligations, solicitation of fund presentation of the information that you're sharing or not sharing in compensation.
Dave Tinker 00:04:47:07
So it's similar in the similar categories, say is RFP. Some of the issues I know that it's covering, you know, when you're writing grant proposals, there are some key slight differences because they're specific to grants. You know what happens when you're doing grant budgets versus an annual budget? What are you doing? Grant reports are what are you reporting to the donor?
Dave Tinker 00:05:13:00
And those come up in here as well. But they have come out. GPA recently came out with a statement on artificial intelligence and actually large learning models. I think it's Wilhelm or Ellen. I apologize, but yeah. Yeah. So can you use a AI? If you use it in an ethical way, it's a great tool. It's not going to stop or end grant writing as a profession.
Dave Tinker 00:05:40:14
You know, there's individual studying to meet with individuals to discuss opportunities, to build relationships. Computers are not going to do that for us, and it's only based on the model of what's going on. You know, there's biases inherently in artificial intelligence. Whoever creates the algorithms where whoever inputs the data sets that you're trying to review, but actually can help you.
Dave Tinker 00:06:06:12
At the same time, I know there's artificial intelligence related tools that help you get over your own biases, or you might be blind to, for instance, just one company that will help you review your your donor list and help you identify people you should meet in a particular order because I and I'm sure I'm guilty of it unconsciously, but I you know, when I meet with my donors or I meet with a volunteer, I need to I might be more preferable.
Dave Tinker 00:06:36:07
I might try to reach out or set meetings with people are more comfortable with the people I know better through my time at the organization, but I might not meet with some of those donors or some of the volunteers that I don't know as well, where I don't visit them as often as I probably could. And so it helps you get over that because a rama, it's almost a reminder.
Dave Tinker 00:06:56:16
It's great. Yeah, artificial intelligence, also great that we can do in grant you to get stuck. It's a great for writing prompts. Uh, what body oversees ethical considerations for grant makers while there's GDP, which is? It's the amount of information that you can collect or not collect. This is especially true if you have international donors or if you're looking to the whether it's foundations or individuals or companies that are in the EU or other countries that have these regulations.
Dave Tinker 00:07:31:17
And so that's that's where you need to consider it. And actually, I would I would guess if I was a betting man, I would guess in the next five years, the United States is likely going to have a similar law because there's so many states that are starting to add this. You know, how much information can you collect about somebody and how long you how you keep it and stored those sorts of things?
Dave Tinker 00:07:51:16
It's yes, it's all probably identifiable. But again, it's how much of it do you cheat? And it really is impacting prospect research. So that's going to be a big, big change coming up. But again, it's if you have a code of ethics and you're following it, that's going to help because you're not going to share information or store information that's erroneous.
Dave Tinker 00:08:14:10
You know, it's not it's not in the best interests of the donor person. And you're going to put them ahead. Yeah, you're looking at information from more than one point of view when you're talking about fundraising and ethics. I mean, that depends. It's always the first answer is that it's because there's no straight answer for almost everything. Sometimes there is that very seldom.
Dave Tinker 00:08:35:04
It's always need to look at different points of view. You know, is it looking at the donors point of view or the organization or you yourself are the nonprofit or the staff member or the coworker's point of view? Whose point of view is that? I mean, fundraising is really helping donors connect with the philanthropic interests and fundraisers or people in fundraising are the ones that help connect them with it, whether it's your organization.
Dave Tinker 00:09:01:00
Hopefully. But if it's not the best interest of the donor to give to your organization, then you should be pointing them to wherever it is. Because again, you're trying to help that donor fulfill their philanthropic goals. You know, does your online organization have policies and in place? It can be a company can be an organization. It could be your own department, whether it's on grants and research like we are talking about, You know, you might have something about these are we're not going to do this.
Dave Tinker 00:09:30:06
I mean, these are the certain things that we want to collect and other things we don't. But there's there's a couple the policies include that might that your organization might have record retention policy, gift acceptance policies, acceptable use of technology policy, social media policies. So many people overshare on social media and they have no idea that they're doing it.
Dave Tinker 00:09:55:00
One example I used to always talk about was Mark Zuckerberg sister. She for a good while was their director of marketing her chief marketing officer. I forget her exact title, but about a decade ago, or maybe spent a little bit longer, she shared a photo that she thought she only shared with her family, but she actually made it public.
Dave Tinker 00:10:13:20
It was a photo of the family standing around like a kitchen island around Hanukkah time and said had a comment about, you know, just basic. This is Hanukkah. Well, a reporter who was following her picture shared that information and put it out onto like Twitter or X as a symbol. And you know, that information the reporter shared, is that is that a picture that you want to keeping your donor record for that for so you can see Mark Zuckerberg family or she didn't know she was doing that So is that one you don't keep because she didn't know she was oversharing and didn't know the privacy policies and settings.
Dave Tinker 00:10:54:07
Now, that also launched another point. I think it's ironic that the sister of the founder didn't know how to use the tool. So even though she was in charge of marketing for the company. But again, is it is that information sharing, is that put your organization in a bad light? If you do save it and you do share it yourself, you know, you have all these tools that are out there.
Dave Tinker 00:11:17:17
There's so much that out there, more than any other time in the history of the world. And again, it's what you do with it. Now, a lot of the to may just be garbage. So you're collecting too much information that's not as necessary. And you know, that can be another problem. You know, are you truthful in the words that you're sharing?
Dave Tinker 00:11:35:19
You know, are you doing things? I mean, are you being truthful? Is did you use it correctly? Is your budget show or demonstrate exactly how you spent the money? Are you rounding up or down too much or you're doing it in such a way that makes you look a little bit better, the images that you use, are you portraying somebody in a good white or are you making them look a little sad, more sad than they probably are or more helpless?
Dave Tinker 00:12:05:06
I mean, my work at a Chiba, it's a large disability nonprofit. So if I use a picture of somebody with a disability and makes them look helpless, that's defeating the purpose of what I'm doing. You're supposed to we're supposed to be empowering people with disabilities. And, you know, if you use somebody that looks downtrodden and sad, that's not necessarily great.
Dave Tinker 00:12:25:14
Yes, it pulls on the heartstrings sometimes. But at the same time, what's in the best interests of the person in that picture and how does that relate back to your own organization? So you need to make sure you're doing things in an ethical way. You know, it would be easy to say all you know, all my pictures are little puppies and our little kids because everybody was puppies and kids or kittens.
Dave Tinker 00:12:47:03
But again, you know, is that really portraying what you're trying to get across? And it's okay to not know the answer. You know, sometimes you don't know. And that's okay, too. There was a question here I wanted to address to somebody asked bonuses, compensation, get some good top logic to explain why, why the management, why you can't be tied to percentage of funds raised.
Dave Tinker 00:13:12:12
The biggest thing for that really is the fact that if I am getting a bonus based on a percentage, I'm going to put myself first potentially. So it might not be in the best interest to make a $10,000 gift to me or for a specific project because I know I'm going to get a bonus and that is putting my own interests ahead of the donors and they might still give a $10,000 gift, but it might be from a project, they might get a $5,000 gift.
Dave Tinker 00:13:42:14
You might, you know, not be they might not be interested in that project at all. And so it's a you know, it's an opportunity for them not to give to that necessarily, but maybe another project or at another time or even to another organization. But you're again, you're putting yourself you're putting the staff member ahead of the donor and the head of the organization.
Dave Tinker 00:14:02:00
We would say, oh, more money for the organization. That's great. That's not necessarily you're getting money from somebody who didn't really want to do that necessarily. So you're kind of persuading them we have that opportunity or that ability sometimes to persuade people to give for things they do not necessarily want to give. And that's not ethical and that's that's a big erode from that.
Dave Tinker 00:14:24:06
As a sole practitioner, can you work for organizations? This is a big question, and yes, it can. And it kind of gets funny sometimes because some you know, you work with a consultant and they're working with multiple organizations, but they're all asking the same funder for the same thing. Right. And you can do it as a consultant, you know, Are you competing?
Dave Tinker 00:14:46:08
Depends on what you're doing. Are you competing against your own organization or are you competing against others? And those are things you need to talk through. Yeah, it may be that you want to avoid any appearance of it, and that's okay. Or it's you walk that really straight line that don't veer off of it and that's you want to make sure that's the case as well.
Dave Tinker 00:15:05:22
Nobody accuses you doing something that you don't necessarily want to do. All right. So let's go on to the next one. So what happens when what happens when these situations come up? Come up? You can speak with a peer. Yeah. Whether it's somebody more senior, somebody, it's not involved. They have a they don't necessarily have, you know, the, you know, some of the knowledge, you know, they can hear it from both sides.
Dave Tinker 00:15:31:24
Is she like they have a blank slate basically to help you with that you may post anonymously on professional association tools such as bulletin boards. I know HP and Brant and both have that option and you can get feedback from others. Sometimes it's good, sometimes people don't know what arguing about. So yeah, it's the same as just posting to the Facebook page asking that if you do it anonymously, you know you don't.
Dave Tinker 00:15:56:12
You've got to remember their they might be members or they might be people that are interested in being members, but they don't know necessarily. So you have to think about what interest that's there. You could reach out directly to an executive director of the association, whatever association, and you don't have to be a member of that association to ask.
Dave Tinker 00:16:15:15
And whether it's a specific niche type group, people that are targeting more like just health care, like HP or grants like GPA or or if you're looking at like more general, you know, the broader like AP is all types of fundraising and you know you can reach out to executive director they'll they'll either get back to you with information because they're typically the ones charged with that is part of the role that they were, though they'll run it by often, which is what they did.
Dave Tinker 00:16:45:08
They run it by their ethics committee and they'll provide feedback for you. And again, it's important to do it. And if you have a complaint, you know somebody is doing something wrong that she found out about. Again, you don't have to be a member to do it. I've had a donor reach out. You know, we talk about GPA.
Dave Tinker 00:17:03:24
We have somebody, a donor reached out to the executive director with with their data question, are they doing this correct or not? And yeah, that's important to know. It's you know, it's on it's out there. You know, there's you know, there's also training coming to stuff like this, whether it's you or your your bring your executive director or you share this with them after the fact.
Dave Tinker 00:17:27:24
But as more people start to understand some of the different variables that go on with ethics, it's definitely a way to help. So next, I wanted to share another group that actually can be helpful because I think this decision making framework is a way to also help if something comes up. That's an ethical question that you have. There's eight simple steps.
Dave Tinker 00:17:47:09
Is it first, is it legal? Again, I talked about just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ethical or is it compliant with one of the Association Code of ethics? Is is it obvious if it is, then tells you what to do, decide on the overall normative ethical theory. And this is basically thinking about, you know, virtual ethics, you know, is it about your character and values or the ontology, which is really about looking at the morals that you have or concepts sensual ism, which is the consequences of what what happens at the end if you make a decision and the conscience points is, you know, the ends justify the means sort of thing.
Dave Tinker 00:18:25:23
And so you need to that's another step you go through and then you think about all the different things you need to consider. You weigh the factors and compare. You compare and contrast, you know, pros and cons, potentially, if you think of it that way, you can make a decision. And then if you do make that decision, you know, evaluate and tested for the effects it has on you, your ionization, the donor, the community as a whole potentially, but also go back to previous steps if you need to very easily.
Dave Tinker 00:18:53:04
And once you finally get to a point, you feel like you can go ahead, go ahead and do it. Rugari is a great research tool that I don't think enough people utilize, and I think that's great. Okay, get a couple more questions. Acting the best interests of the donor. Do you mean the beneficiary recipients of the funds with the funder, It's actually the person that's giving the funds, although yes, you want to also working in the interests of the if you're supporting people, the people that are in your programs.
Dave Tinker 00:19:26:17
But if you're getting money to support those people or programs in an unethical manner, are you really helping them? Frankly, that's that's an issue. Paying the directors, family members or staff members to do work out of money receipt from grants? Is it ethical certain circumstances I think it kind of depends. I mean, I'm most 19 years if you ever read a nonprofit's 1980s which is in the U.S. tax return you look at it and you if there are conflicts of interest that actually is addressed in a couple of things, not specifically.
Dave Tinker 00:20:01:17
Can I pay a staff member that's actually my sibling. That's an issue. Yes. There are certainly charities that start with like a small family or small group, and it kind of builds out sometimes by chance, you get into second generations as well. We're even third generation. We're definitely on my own organization. And Sheila has multiple second generation board members, meaning that the parents were board members and now they're not necessarily board members.
Dave Tinker 00:20:27:09
Now they're juror adult children are. We've had actually a mother and a daughter. We have an uncle and an Annette niece sort of thing. And so that's but that's on a volunteer basis. It's not on staff. But yeah, and it can be an issue sometimes. It really depends on the funder and how transparent you are about it. Is there, you know, do you have a bunch of staff that are all related?
Dave Tinker 00:20:52:01
You know, that's a thing. Sometimes you have some members that meet each other and get married. That's a different thing is while so you have spouses working together, how do you structure a bonus plan differently to increase fundraising, but not the percentage of fundraising? Well, you make it based on somebody doing the job. And is it is standard set a bonus situation.
Dave Tinker 00:21:13:05
I realize there aren't. You know fundraisers typically are smaller pool of the numbers overall staff members in most organizations. But yeah it's again it's just really making it is there a pool of money that's been raised and then the board members give the $10,000 pool and then they split it up or, you know, are they're doing it in such a way that still keeps the the donor in it.
Dave Tinker 00:21:40:20
So di effect ethics and fundraising, how do we help our organization stay in these changes? Yeah, you guys definitely changed the needle. For some funders, they're looking more towards it. DI includes disabilities, which I'm certainly an advocate for. And, and so people like Darren Walker of who's the head of the Ford Foundations really looked at are we funding programs to support people disabilities.
Dave Tinker 00:22:07:24
They it's it's not there's a lot of foundations don't don't realize it because it's being excluded not intentionally just it is and so there's groups like that looking at it. How do we express ourselves in a professional manner to foundations of funders who might be slow to adapt changes? Sometimes it's a matter. It's really just a matter of working with the program staff, or if they don't have staff working with like the key contact, that might be a board member, you know.
Dave Tinker 00:22:34:12
And again, it goes back into gift acceptance policy. Your organization says we follow people that do ethical things and you think this donor is not doing an ethical thing. Maybe it's you refuse a grant. If you get a grant or you don't go towards them more until they do come into line with what your own organization's ethics are in that can help you.
Dave Tinker 00:22:56:22
Yeah. If you plan to submit grab locations to multiple funders, and I'm funded by more than one funder. Well, first, you don't want to take one proposal and submit it to everybody. That's not actually good. It's not best practice. You want to make sure that you're customizing proposals. Now, granted, a lot of people are doing like a uniform proposal application, which is great, makes life easier for everybody.
Dave Tinker 00:23:23:04
But when you're doing it in your funding for more, if you get more funding and you have then than you need, then you get a return. Some whether it's pro-rated out or that you ask them, Hey, we got more than we needed, can we have an extra few months of our project to find if it's, you know, if a general operating can, can we keep it and just fund three or months of our general operating so you don't have to return it sometimes the foundations are great with that.
Dave Tinker 00:23:49:23
Sometimes they want it back. And but if you have yeah, there are there's more than likely going to be times where you have multiple funders from the same program because the program might be big enough, you need multiple people. So and when you see and next I was just going to ask, you know, the number one question or two, I'm wrong that the drumroll is actually it's compensation and can I pay somebody a percentage of what they raised that that hundred percent is the number one question asked a lot.
Dave Tinker 00:24:27:18
And if you are a member of A and you'll look at some of the ethics questions have been asked, the bold boards, they'll show up in there a lot a lot of it has to do with the fact that many board members well-meaning, just assume, okay, fundraising is a type of sales. So a typical sales compensation model is to do an to do a commission based fundraising or commission bake sales.
Dave Tinker 00:24:56:04
And that I understand that, and that makes sense. But again, you're not putting your your your donor at the forefront. You're putting yourself at the forefront of the fundraising equation. And because of that, you can try to persuade donors to get more than they could possibly to truly afford you, get them to commit the things they don't want to do and you're doing it whether you do it consciously or subconsciously, because, you know, at some point you're going to get extra money out of it because you got this, that one.
Dave Tinker 00:25:30:01
It's either your pay, so it's paying your, you know, your annual salary. And it's not it's your salary because it's commission based, but also because you want more money. I mean, everybody would love to earn more money because most people in nonprofits aren't happy. I get it. That's that's always going to be the case. Why you don't necessarily want to do it.
Dave Tinker 00:25:51:06
You have to explain this to your board. I've actually discussed this with a board member I had a pretty lengthy conversation with. He is a bright guy who's a CFO, is a former board members, a CFO of a big for profit organization. And it made sense for sales. If you have a salesperson, you get a commission, I get it.
Dave Tinker 00:26:07:02
You might get the salary and then commission on top of it, or 100% commission. But you have to explain why. You know, if you asked that board member, okay, if you knew, yeah, like if you gave me $1,000, if you knew 15% of that was like, I get 150. So organizations only getting 89 or $50 towards the program.
Dave Tinker 00:26:29:20
Is that okay or not? Yes. There's always administrative overhead, but if it's going to a specific person, because I am the one that asked the question, can you make a gift? That's an issue. And that's you know, how does that donor feel? Many donors don't like that idea. You know, just like many donors don't like the fact of overhead or the cost of making donations online because there's always credit card, gee and how that gets passed on or doesn't get passed on.
Dave Tinker 00:26:54:24
But again, this is the number one question and it's a really big thing. Are there other questions? Did anybody have any other questions? We have like a minute or two for some more sexual harassment. Whew, That's a big one. And okay, so in RFP specifically, there have been there's been a lot stated about this. I you know, they did a report or a study, I think it was University of Illinois, worked on it with AP.
Dave Tinker 00:27:23:10
I forget the exact school, but they found that like three fourths of all fundraisers have been sexually harassed by a donor or within the organization. I have been sexually harassed by some a donor, and it's off. And there is a donor Bill of Rights, but there's also work on a fundraiser Bill of rights as well that they've been working on.
Dave Tinker 00:27:45:02
I know the AP chapter in Chicago had created one a while back in a piece looking at trying to update that to make it more global. And it's it's a big issue. And it's especially true. I'm not a woman, obviously, if you didn't notice. But and I'm a big I if I were to stand up, you might be surprised at time.
Dave Tinker 00:28:03:13
You can't tell by the box. But I'm actually I'm 62 and you know, big burly guy. But even me, you know, you think of a dainty young woman. Yeah. Especially the younger staff. I actually talk to my staff about this because especially my younger staff that are just in their early twenties that are starting to do this as a first job, you know, it's not okay.
Dave Tinker 00:28:24:18
And we you know, you need to make sure your bosses have your back. When it happened to me, I talked to my boss about it. It was you know, it some donors have a real big they think because they they're giving money. It's okay that they can behave badly. And that's obviously not the case. What about to do compensation with bonuses?
Dave Tinker 00:28:44:04
What you can do, make sure that there's actually a policy in place about how to get bonuses. So that's important. I mean, I don't think if there was one, that would avoid a lot of issues and you need to make sure board approved does not just say, you know, our staff said this is what we're going to follow.
Dave Tinker 00:29:02:07
I mean, that's great, especially from an H.R. perspective. You have h.r. Committee maybe for your company or organization, but you want to make sure the board has by it. And so that's important. And yeah, just so people understand it, it's a really important thing. And actually, the one thing I didn't talk about, i've had people reach out to me before about ethics because something was not ethical going on in a job and you should not be in a job at the you can't change the unethical things going on.
Dave Tinker 00:29:31:00
There are times when you're CEO or board members were it because of their position, they're able to force it. And just because it's legal again doesn't necessarily mean it's ethical, then you should really consider changing jobs. So and that's hard to do. I get that. But yeah, you should definitely avoid situations if you can't get out of it, that's okay too.
Dave Tinker 00:29:51:12
But you really should well elsewhere.