Changes to International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising agreed

The updated statement replaces one of the five key qualities expected, empathy, with 'responsibility'

Fundraisers: urged to act with responsibility
Fundraisers: urged to act with responsibility

Fundraising professionals from around the world met in London today to sign off on changes to the ethical principles that fundraisers should uphold.

The International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising, last updated in 2016, previously called on fundraisers to demonstrate five key qualities in their work: honesty, respect, integrity, transparency and empathy.

But the new version, ratified today by fundraising representatives from 24 countries, has replaced empathy with a call for fundraisers to behave with "responsibility".

The previous version defined empathy as fundraisers working "in a way that promotes their purpose and encourages others to use the same professional standards and engagement" and valuing "individual privacy, freedom of choice and diversity". The new statement explains that responsibility entails "understanding that we share a common objective to promote fundraising excellence for the benefit of the common good" as well as valuing diversity.

The new version has also removed a section of the statement that called for funds to be collected "without the use of pressure, harassment, intimidation or coercion", instead saying fundraisers should "always respect the free choice of all individuals to give donations or not".

Ian MacQuillin, director of the fundraising think tank Rogare, welcomed the revised statement, saying it was "less prescriptive" than the previous version.

"It's much closer to what a code of ethics ought to be: setting out aspirations and ethical behaviours," he said.

"The previous iteration read too much like a code of practice than a code of ethics."

Codes of ethics should give fundraisers guidance on what values to aspire to, he said, whereas codes of practice tell them what they should do in order to achieve those values.

"To be ethical, any fundraiser anywhere has to work out what her duties are to her donors and what they are to her beneficiaries and ensure they are in balance," he said. 

The statement says it is not intended to replicate, replace or supersede any laws or codes of conduct in the countries fundraisers are operating in, and fundraisers are expected to fully observe the law wherever they work.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, which hosted the signing of the new statement, said the document was "an important symbol of international cooperation across the fundraising community and recognises that, wherever supporters are asked for money, it should always happen to a high standard and according to ethical principles".

He said: "I’m proud that the IoF is supporting this work, which contributes to the delivery of excellent standards of fundraising across the world."

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