A just-hired fundraiser landed several big gifts after taking donors out for drinks. Now he is asking his organization to reimburse him for some hefty bar tabs. But was it ethical for the fundraiser to get his prospects drunk?
Gary Ravetto, a fundraising consultant, received a slew of comments on The Chronicle‘s LinkedIn group after posing this question from a former client. She asked Mr. Ravetto for advice about her new development director whose meetings with donors often take place at a bar.
“His strategy has been to get them drunk and they more easily reach for their checkbooks,” Mr. Ravetto wrote. The client, he added, “wants to know if this approach is acceptable or should she stop it. There have been no complaints thus far.”
Judging from the online comments prompted by the post, many fundraisers believe that mixing alcohol and fundraising is an unethical ploy, though some fundraisers point out that it’s common practice and not necessarily a problem. Among the comments so far:
Jim Allen, director of resource development, Parkinson Society Canada, Toronto: “I have certainly witnessed my share of over-indulgence at charity functions and cases where staff were buying the drinks. … At my charity, we have a policy of no reimbursement for personal drinks or for buying drinks for others. This is a policy I totally support.”
Matthew Brockmeier, consultant, Milwaukee, WI: “It is not about alcohol per se but rather about adhering to the highest ethical standards, doing things that will not raise liability issues, and developing relationships for the long term. In all of these areas, getting donors drunk fails, at least in my book.”
Brian Jaffe, charity auctioneer, Accord, NY: “‘Getting someone drunk’ is dated as a concept. The only way to ‘get someone drunk’ is to hold them down and use a funnel. The salesman who turns in these large bills is probably a big drinker himself and is taking advantage of his expense account. I’m sure he is a great salesman and may need his drinks for fortitude. His donors drink as they choose, and many people can use this as an excuse to justify their behavior, but I doubt the drinks affect major donations. … I don’t think this is a major ethics issue.”
Let us know what you think by joining the conversation on LinkedIn or putting your comments in the space below.
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