6 Tips To Approaching Ethical Conundrums

It’s a hard scenario to avoid. An incoming donation just doesn’t feel right and, before you know it, a tiny white angel appears on your right shoulder followed by a little, red, horned figure on your left. What are you to do?

During the session, “Ethical Dilemmas and Donor Intent” at Fundraising Day in New York 2017, Doug White, author of Abusing Donor Intent, provided some pointers geared at handling such situations.

    Avoiding such dilemmas is possibly too lofty a goal for an organization, but policies can be developed to address them — revising along the way. White said that withholding judgment is important — not thinking of a scenario as right versus wrong — but as right versus right while also incorporating organizational values instead of judgments. Other tips provided during the session included:

  • Gather as much information about the situation ahead of time before working toward a decision;
  • Evaluate what existing rules apply to the situation at hand. Such rules tend to illustrate past thinking on such matters;
  • Be disciplined in deciding whether you want to ask others to take action or whether you want to handle things;
  • Lay out potential consequences of possible actions both for the short-term and long-term. It might sometimes be necessary to violate one ethical principle to advance another, but be sure that you aren’t rationalizing questionable conduct for your own self-interest;
  • Spend some time and reflect on the situation at hand; and,
  • Take action and implement a decision, but be prepared to modify that decision if new relevant information comes to light.