What is the Donor Bill of Rights?

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Summary

Transparency and building trust rank near the top for values fundraisers must cultivate. With competition for donor dollars increasing year after year, adopting a clear and validated set of professional values will boost donor peace of mind.

The Donor Bill of Rights delivers a widely-accepted list of basic expectations between donors and their chosen nonprofits. Consider adopting these guidelines to lend legitimacy to your organization. This document will also help you observe the building blocks for a well-functioning development department.

What is the Donor Bill of Rights?

The Donor Bill of Rights was established in 1993 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a professional membership organization for fundraisers.

AFP collaborated with other professional fundraising associations across the nonprofit sector, including the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) and the Giving Institute. This helped establish a robust and relevant Donor Bill of Rights for fundraisers in all roles.

Ideas covered in the Donor Bill of Rights include:

  • Clearly and honestly communicating the organization’s mission
  • Remaining transparent about how funds are spent, including offering access to financial statements
  • Sharing the identity of board members
  • Committing to donor confidentiality and proper handling of sensitive information
  • Treating donors with respect before, during, and after a donation and at any time of the donor relationship

To view the complete Donor Bill of Rights, visit the AFP website.

eDonor Bill of Rights

The original Donor Bill of Rights is now more than 30 years old and significant shifts have occurred within the philanthropy sector in the last three decades. One of the most influential changes is the current ubiquity of online giving – a topic that was unheard of in 1993!

Therefore the eDonor Bill of Rights was developed in 2019 to reinforce and elaborate upon the original list. New ideas covered in the eDonor Bill of Rights include:

  • Sharing alternative contact information that is not digital, like a phone number of physical address
  • Providing a safe and secure online payment processing system
  • Honoring a donor’s wishes to “opt out” of emails or other digital services

Why does the Donor Bill of Rights Matter?

The Donor Bill of Rights is a crucial tool for fundraisers because it supports nonprofit organizations no matter what stage they are in. This clearly-outlined fundraising code of ethics details a proper relationship between a donor and a nonprofit to achieve the greatest good for everyone.

Just like in the Constitution, these fundraising rights also open with a preamble. This helpful introduction gracefully sums up its purpose in any nonprofit. The preamble reads:

“Philanthropy is based on voluntary action for the common good. It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life. To assure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the not-for-profit organizations and causes they are asked to support, we declare that all donors have these rights:”

The Donor Bill of Rights provides an excellent foundation for any nonprofit’s fundraising engine. Refer back to these principles to help promote mutual respect and trust at every level of the organization.

How to Use the Donor Bill of Rights

This document outlines the 10 best practices for how a nonprofit handles donor relationships. A nonprofit that is just getting started can use the Donor Bill of Rights to develop their fundraising policies and online donation procedures.

Or a well-established nonprofit can look to the Donor Bill of Rights to measure the impact of every donor’s experience and find places to improve.

The Donor Bill of Rights can serve as a powerful training tool for staff and board members to help them understand their responsibilities. When leaders are questioned about their investment in stewardship or their need to upgrade giving policies, the Donor Bill of Rights can back them up.

If you wish to formally adopt the Donor Bill of Rights, you would be in good company. Many notable organizations like the Arthritis Foundation, University of South Carolina, and the Sacramento Zoo publicly adhere to this code of fundraising ethics. Reach out to AFP and fill out a permission form to be able to post the Donor Bill of Rights at your nonprofit.

Conclusion

Nonprofits looking to establish, boost, or measure their fundraising department can begin with the foundational ethics established 30 years ago in the Donor Bill of Rights. This document explains the basic rights all nonprofits must deliver for their donors, covering topics like confidentiality, transparency, and proper communication.

Nonprofits, with permission, can post the Donor Bill of Rights in their organizations or on the website to communicate their dedication to the highest standards of fundraising ethics.

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