Outsourced HR

Principles to Guide Your Non-Profit’s Donor Relationships

In 1993, a consortium of philanthropic organizations developed the Donor Bill of Rights to guide non-profits in their interactions with financial supporters. For the most part, the basic principles remain valid. However, over the past quarter century, some in the non-profit and donor communities have suggested amendments and additional ‘rights.’ If you are not already familiar with the Bill of Rights, it is a good idea to review it and recent updates while thinking about ways you might improve your organization’s relationship with donors.

Bill of Rights

The original list states that donors have these 10 rights:

  1. To be informed of the organization’s mission, how it intends to use donated resources, and its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.
  2. To be informed of who is 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 gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.
  5. To receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition.
  6. To be assured that donation information is handled with respect and confidentiality to the extent provided by law.
  7. To expect that relationships between individuals representing organizations and donors will be professional.
  8. To be informed whether fundraisers are volunteers, employees of the organization, or hired solicitors.
  9. To have the opportunity for donors’ names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.
  10. To feel free to ask questions and receive prompt, truthful, and forthright answers.

List Update

Obviously, a lot has changed since 1993. Notably, web-based and digital communications have largely replaced traditional methods of sharing information. In addition, new technologies, including mobile devices and apps, have changed how many supporters donate. The 2019 eDonor Bill of Rights, assembled by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, addresses these advancements.

Among the additions to the original list are technology-specific items. For example, non-profits are advised to provide secure donation methods that protect personal information and to enable supporters to opt out of data lists and email solicitations. Charities also are encouraged to provide donors with communication channels other than email and web-based apps.

One item that is not technology-related is an increasingly important obligation that non-profits have to donors: To inform them that, “a contribution entitles the donor to a tax deduction, and of all limits on such deduction based on applicable laws.” You can read the entire amended eDonor Bill of Rights here.

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