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Principles to Guide Your Nonprofit’s Relationship With Donors

In 1993, a consortium of philanthropic organizations came up with the Donor Bill of Rights to guide not-for-profits in their interactions with financial supporters. For the most part, the basic principles remain valid. But over the past quarter century, some in the nonprofit and donor communities have suggested amendments and additional “rights.” If you aren’t already familiar with the Bill, it’s 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’s 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 getting the word out. And 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 this new world.

Among the additions to the original list are technology-specific items. For example, nonprofits 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 are also encouraged to provide donors with communication channels other than email and web-based apps.

One item that isn’t technology-related is an increasingly important obligation that nonprofits 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 Bill at afpglobal.org/principles-edonor-bill-rights.

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