Soliciting bequests and other planned gifts involves many ethical challenges, especially because fund raisers are often dealing with people accustomed to a lot of power as well as many elderly people.
At the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning in Orlando, Fla., Johni Hays, a planned-giving consultant in Des Moines, Iowa, raised such ethical concerns with real-life situations meant to elicit reactions that sometimes left fund raisers puzzled, enraged, thoughtful, or concerned about the appearance of conflicts under the law and under the guise of the industry’s ethical guidelines.
She began her presentation “‘The Apprentice’ Meets Gift Planning Ethics: Who Should be Fired?’” with what being ethical meant to her: “Integrity is doing the right thing even if nobody is watching.”
Ms. Hays gave The Chronicle some examples based on real-life cases to let readers determine which characters or parties were at fault. (Audience members here held up plastic paddles with the phrase: ‘You’re fired!’ when they thought fund raisers had crossed the line.)
Among the examples to ponder and discuss in our comments section below:
* A husband and wife are long-time donors and are completing their third charitable-gift annuity. The wife comes to you by herself and signs the annuity agreement—and also signs her husband’s name in front of you. The wife also signs the stock transfer form in front of you, without her husband’s present. What should you do? Anything at all? Was there a possible crime committed? What if she had power of attorney?
* A board member of a local charity is also a real-estate agent and a volunteer for the charity. During tax season, she asks for a charitable receipt for three hours of volunteer work, which she has done each month, for $250 per hour, equaling $9,000 a year. The fund raiser gives her the receipt—after all, she’s a board member. Was there anything wrong with this? If so, who should be ‘fired’?
* A longtime donor tells a fund raiser that she wants to leave a small sum in her will for him. The fund raiser informs the donor that staff members working for a charity usually cannot accept such gifts because it’s against the charity’s policies. The next time the donor has lunch with the fund raiser, she tells him she still wants to go ahead with the bequest to him because she doesn’t want to pay the $100 attorney’s fee to make the change in the will. What should the fund raiser do? Should the charity pay the $100 legal fee?