A Fundraiser’s Code of Ethical Principles and Practices

Stewards-Corner-Banner-April-2016

by Mark Hofman

If you read my previous Steward’s Corner article about your rights as a donor, recall that I promised to share the flip side of that topic: our Code of Ethical Principles and Practices* as advancement professionals.

Those of us serving the Synod’s corporate headquarters, especially those within Mission Advancement, are bound by God’s Word — in passages like Phil. 4:8 — and by this code as we work alongside anyone who has or is considering making a charitable investment in our Synod’s work.

Let me be upfront here. God’s Word does not explicitly provide codes of ethics (rules of professional conduct) for doctors, attorneys or fundraisers.

Moreover, codes like ours deal with matters more of the left-hand kingdom (Law-predominate) than the right-hand kingdom (Gospel-predominate). For each statement in our code, I have added a reference or two that may aid an understanding of that statement from the perspective of Holy Scripture.

Our Code of Ethical Principles and Practices

The staff and volunteers of the LCMS (specifically Mission Advancement) will:

1. Seek to serve Christ faithfully and hold His name supreme (2 Thess. 1:11–12; Eph. 4:15–16).

Nothing we do is hidden from the Lord. Believing otherwise is foolishness. Our purpose is to serve our Redeemer and Savior by serving others in love. What does serving others in love mean? Read ahead.

2. Work for the best interest of the donor (Matt 22:37–39; 1 Cor. 10:24).

Without you, our donor, we would not have a reason to exist as a team. Our greatest sense of fulfillment comes when we see the faith of God’s people turn into the action of a charitable gift in a way that brings the greatest possible joy to the giver. Our obligation is to ensure that any gift the Synod accepts is used according to the intent of the giver, as effectively and efficiently as possible, and then to report back the impact the giver had through that gift. And if a gift cannot be used in the way the donor intends, we will decline the gift, refund it or perhaps find a mutually agreeable course to take.

3. Strive to model and promote the concept of Christian stewardship in the church and among donors, Synod co-workers and other advancement professionals (1 Tim. 6:17–19; Prov. 11:3).

We do this willingly, and we are also blessed because the Office of National Mission has two wonderful, loving pastors focused on the concept of Christian stewardship to help us. If we were to go out of bounds in promoting and modeling stewardship, they are there to correct and counsel.

4. Portray accurately the Synod’s mission in all communications (Eph. 4:15; Prov. 21:6; Col. 3:9).

I touched on this in a previous article, and it is one area where our work is cut out for us. The Synod actually has two mission statements: one for the entire body of believers in the LCMS and a different statement for what the national headquarters (Synod, Inc.) does and why it exists. The latter statement reads: “Synod, Inc. will synchronize strategic internal ministry capabilities and coordinate with the agencies, auxiliaries, and Recognized Service Organizations of Synod in order to enhance efforts and activities that make known the love of Christ throughout the world.” We are here to coordinate, collaborate, engage and assist others in ways that enhance LCMS efforts to show our world the love that is in Christ Jesus. For Mission Advancement, our contribution is bringing the courageous capabilities of Christian stewards to bear on our Lord’s mission for His Church.

5. Maintain confidentiality in handling donor and prospective donor records (Prov. 11:13; 13:3; 20:19).

We take extensive measures to ensure the information we have about you is appropriate to the relationship you have with the national headquarters — and no more. Those who access that information are given appropriate and, in most cases, very limited rights to see only the information appropriate to the jobs they must perform. Even I, as executive director of Mission Advancement, do not have unrestricted access to all of your information. Donor records are stored in an encrypted, password-protected environment. Policies govern the use of that information. We do not sell, rent, trade or exchange donor lists with outside entities. Misuse or unauthorized distribution and retention of donor information can lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

6. Offer public recognition and appreciation for a gift only after donor permission has been granted (2 Cor. 9:12–15; Heb. 10:24).

We do not publish or disclose the names of donors or the stories of their giving as expressions of appreciation unless requested to do so by the donor or when prior approval of the donor has been received.

7. Ensure accurate use of designated gifts, optimal management of all solicited funds and truthful reporting (Luke 16:10; 2 Cor. 8:20–21).

We are blessed to have a capable chief financial officer and a well-trained accounting staff to manage these aspects. Mission Advancement does not handle the actual dollars contributed, which means we do not manage solicited funds. The Synod’s finance professionals do. This is a great blessing. We are obligated, though, to serve as each donor’s eyes and ears to confirm that contributions are being used as intended, wisely managed and truthfully reported.

8. Comply with all federal, state and municipal laws (Matt. 22:20–21; Rom. 13:1–7).

There are laws and regulations governing fundraising and the care of contributors. We learn about the laws that exist and become proficient in new laws and regulations as they are passed. Many — but not all — of these laws and regulations come from the IRS.

9. Deal charitably, fairly and honestly with other professionals and organizations (Ps. 15:1–5; 1 Peter 3:10–12).

This statement ties very closely with statement No. 2. We expect other organizations and professionals to also work for the best interests of donors, not their own self-interests.

10. Maintain and encourage high levels of professional competence and accurately present professional qualifications and experiences to prospective donors and employers (Col. 1:10; 1 Peter 2:12).

We invest in professional training and continuing education. We will freely offer information about our qualifications and experience to anyone who asks, as well as provide supporting documents.

11. Be compensated by a set salary or fixed hourly wage, NOT by commissions, fees or wages based on a percentage of charitable gifts secured (Lev. 19:35–36; Prov. 22:1).

It is not uncommon for people to think fundraising and advancement personnel are paid on commission or that they get a “cut” of the profits. Not so with those working in LCMS Mission Advancement. We are compensated by the Synod either in set salary or a fixed hourly wage, depending upon the position and duties. Some are eligible for overtime; others are not, even if they work extra hours. Working under a commission-based system would create a conflict with Nos. 1 and 2 (and No. 12), so we don’t — and won’t — do it.

12. Avoid or otherwise disclose all potential conflicts of interest (Matt. 6:24; 2 Cor. 7:1).

Potential conflicts of interest are more readily apparent and appropriately handled when we consistently work in accord with No. 1. In reminding each other of that ethical commitment, self-interest and self-gratification fall away.

Are any of these a surprise to you?

LCMS Mission Advancement staff and the Synod’s leadership take this code seriously. As professionals, we have a copy of the code in front of us at our desks and workstations. Over the past five years, we have intentionally invested time reviewing each and every ethical statement in detail, and we remind each other of our ethical obligations to you under the code and certainly under God’s Word.

I invite you to do this: If we fail you in any of these ethical obligations, please let the Synod’s Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson, my immediate supervisor, know. If you experience any of my team members upholding these obligations, let us know by calling our donor care line at 888-930-4438 or by sending an email to mission.advancement@lcms.org with a subject line of “Honoring Your Code.”

I pray that knowing about this code, and our commitment to upholding it, is an encouragement to you as we live, love and serve under our Lord’s cross.

Mark Hofman, CFRE, MBA, is the executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement.


* Our code parallels the Code of Ethical Principles and Practices endorsed by the Association of Lutheran Development Executives, or ALDE. LCMS Mission Advancement also accepts the Code of Ethical Standards prepared by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or AFP.

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Note: LCMS leader blog articles express the personal experiences and views of our ministry staff and have not been subjected to the LCMS doctrinal review process. Readers are encouraged to leave questions in the comment section or consult their pastor with any queries related to this content.

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