Ethics In Fundraising An Interesting Issue

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

Fundraising is a year-long effort for non-profit health organizations everywhere. At this time of the year, the warmer weather makes walks and runs ideal fundraisers. Not only can walks and run raise money for important causes, they can also benefit those who participate in them by motivating them to get out and exercise. Being physically active helps reduce the risk of being affected by certain diseases, therefore runs and walks are a way of killing two birds with one stone for many organizations.

Unfortunately, not all fundraisers are this all-around squeaky clean.The issue of ethics in fundraising is an interesting one. One important question that can be asked is, ”Is it acceptable to raise money for health-related charitable causes by indirectly encouraging donors in their unhealthy habits or by indirectly promoting ideas that could negatively influence society’s perception of individuals affected by certain health problems?”.

Bake sales that raise money for health research also encourage those who participate in them to have a few servings of sugary stuff. Of course, it could be argued that people who buy treats regularly at bake sales would buy the same treats regularly at the grocery store. At least by buying them at a bake sale, they are making the statement that they care about health research, even if they might not be too concerned about their own health.

Controversial breast cancer awareness campaigns, like the Facebook one initiated earlier last year (it encouraged female Facebook users to post their bra color as their status) and like the TV ads and bracelets that use slang words and ”sexy” statements to capture attention, are highly effective at spurring conversation, whether people like them or not (this column itself is proof—I may not agree with the approach the campaigns use, but I’m discussing them anyhow. Would I have done so if they were less controversial? I hope so, but don’t know so.). Some breast cancer survivors say that such campaigns raise awareness at the cost of distorting and minimizing the hardships of the disease, placing emphasis on the disease’s effect on body parts rather than on people.

Sugar and sex sell. Non-profit organizations, like businesses in need of clients, must do what they can to find donors, especially in a tight economy. They cannot be held to perfection when it comes to fundraisers. We fundraisers and donors need to set standards, voice our concerns, and act accordingly when it comes to deciding who to support.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on June 11th, 2011.

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