Dani Robbins

With Whom is Your Non-Profit in Bed?

In Leadership on February 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Politics – and non-profit fund raising – make strange bed fellows.  Most non profits look for donor and sponsors.  At some point, there will be a conflict between the mission of the non-profit and the reputation, earned or unfair, of the potential sponsor.  Some donors and sponsors will be better for your mission than others.  A Gift Acceptance Policy can help you determine what’s best for your organization.

When I used to run local Boys & Girls Clubs, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) held a workshop encouraging board members and executive staff to talk through potential gift acceptance liabilities.  The scenario they offered was this: “A local restaurant, known for well endowed waitressed in skimpy uniforms, who’s owner is friend of a Board member, wants to donate $10,000 and conduct a public media blitz connecting the two organizations.”

Immediately, my brain went to the possibility of a billboard with two scantily clad waitresses in low cut very tight Boy & Girls Clubs tee-shirts. (Boys & Girls Clubs, among many other amazing and life changing programs, have self esteem programs for young women as well as a similar program for boys teaching them what it means to be a man.)  BGCA offered the question “Do you accept the gift?” The two Board members with whom I attended immediately said “Yes!”  “Over my dead body!” was my reply.

BGCA encourages its local Club leadership to talk about such things, and Clubs across the country are better for it.  Since I have opened my consulting firm I have found that this to be the exception, not the rule.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation in addition to the incredibly negative press it has received for its recent decision to defund and then re-fund Planned Parenthood, was also cited on NPR.org for its “2010 “Buckets for the Cure” campaign with Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Some studies have linked fatty foods to a higher risk of cancer.

According to the documentary philanthropy.com, the World Wildlife Fund got in trouble with some of their supporters for their acceptance of a large gift from Coke, who at the time, was being accused of sucking up, literally, the limited drinking water from the very poor in India to support a local bottling plant, and of only supporting the WWF to buy its way back into love.

Is there a similar PR problem in your non profit’s future?  Does your organization have a gift acceptance policy? 

Polices, like plans, allow you to frame, and respond to the question at hand.  Do you know – and like- with whom your non-profit is in bed?  Could you defend it publically? As Komen, the World WildLife Fund and others have learned, the day might come when you have to.

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