Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thanks but no thanks?

Corporations are a major source of funding for nonprofits. Businesses donate money to charity because they are concerned corporate citizens – showing that they stand for something more than just the bottom line.

However, when a charity receives a donation that is not in line with its mission, principles and values, should the organization accept the money?

The Advocates for Human Rights, a charity that has participated in the Council's Accountability Wizard review process, faced this very dilemma recently when it received a donation from Craigslist, widely known for its sex-for sale ads. The Advocates for Human Rights, a local nonprofit dedicated to protecting human rights and fighting against sex trafficking, decided to send the money back to Craigslist. Their story was highlighted in a recent Star Tribune article. Cheryl Thomas, the organization’s Director of Women’s Human Rights, told us that they have never encountered such a situation before, and that they have received hundreds of emails from across the country congratulating them for sticking to their values and returning the donation.

In these tough economic times, charities need donations more than ever to continue their important work. What would you want your favorite charity to do in this situation? Should a charity return a donation if it came from an organization that is in direct conflict with the organization's mission, principles and values? Or is it OK to accept the money, putting it to good use improving our communities?

To address controversial issues like these up front, a gift acceptance policy can be helpful in laying out guidelines for the types of gifts and sources a charity will accept.

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