Be HonestIf you’ve been in major gift fundraising for any length of time, you know that sometimes uncomfortable or bad things happen. It’s in those moments that you may be tested to be truthful, authentic and real with others.
Here are some examples that Richard and I have become aware of when major gift officers or their managers have written to us, asking what they should do:

  • A donor gives a significant gift for a project. The project is either failing or won’t be completed… what do I tell the donor?
  • A donor pledges a $100,000 gift over 5 years. It’s now in the second year of that pledge and the donor hasn’t made the first installment of their gift… what should I do?
  • An unfavorable article was written about how our organization was reporting donations to the IRS. What do I tell our major donors?
  • I had lunch with a donor recently who was rude and demeaning toward me, and I’m afraid of talking to the donor and losing their gifts.
  • A donor wants to make a very large gift toward our endowment, but for part of the gift she wants us to create a program that has nothing to do with our mission. I’m afraid we’ll lose the gift if we don’t say yes to her demands.
  • My boss is putting pressure on me to ask for a six-figure gift from a donor who’s only given us a $1,000, and I don’t even know the donor. What should I do?
  • My CEO wants to take a gift from one of our major donors and re-allocate it toward something the donor didn’t intend for it to go toward, and we will NOT tell the donor. If I say anything I might get fired.

These are all real issues you and your colleagues have written to us seeking help with… and believe me, there are many more. We could probably write a book with all of them.
In each one, the person writing us has a fear that if they present the truth, something bad is going to happen to them, the donor or the organization.
Richard and I understand your fears. We have to confront our fears every day. It’s not easy. In the end though, we challenge each other to seek what is authentic, real and truthful. We work hard not to hide things even when they’re difficult to talk about.
You’re in the people business. People are messy; they do things that make you confront your own mess. However, you are also a professional who is held to a high ethical standard. Seeking truth and being real with others is essential. Pursuing what is right, rather than what is convenient, is part of your work.
In the end, being honest with your donors, colleagues and your manager honors them… and you. Even when it will be uncomfortable and painful. (Tweet it!)