Feb. 24 2020 | By Anna Hammonds, CFRE

Should I pay my fundraising professional a percentage of what he or she raises?

When seeking fundraising help, many organizations will ask if their fundraising professional or fundraising consultant should be paid commission based on a certain percentage of funds raised.

The answer from the major nonprofit and fundraising councils and associations is a resounding NO!

The Association of Fundraising Professional’s (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards lays out ethical standards for those in the fundraising field. In addition to addressing public trust, transparency, conflicts of interest, the solicitation and stewardship of philanthropic funds and treatment of confidential and proprietary information, AFP states that its members shall not be paid or enter into a contract to be paid “finder’s fees, commissions or percentage compensation based on contributions.”

The Giving Institute, a member organization for fundraising consultants as well as the parent organization producing the annual Giving USA report, outlines in its Professional Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice that their member firms shall “charge clients based upon the professional services provided. Their fees are never based upon charitable gifts raised or a percentage of contributions.”

AFP does state in its Code of Ethical Standards that fundraisers may be paid bonuses based on performance as long as bonuses are in accord with prevailing practices within their organization and again, are not based on a percentage of funds raised.

Bottom line

As fundraisers, our drive should be based on improving quality of life through the causes we serve. We should put the philanthropic mission of our clients above our personal gain while ensuring we are donor-focused and honoring a donor’s intent, which usually does NOT include wanting their contribution to be included in a commission-based sales plan instead of supporting the mission of the organization.

Development staff and consultants should be compensated based on their experience, expertise and the value of their work. The art of fundraising should remain a team effort, investing the time to develop relationships with donors and honoring the donors’ intent and passion for the mission.

Anna Hammonds, CFRE, is an associate with M. Gale & Associates, anna.hammonds@mgaleassociates.com