party whose interests go directly counter to your mission wants to donate a
sizable gift. Should you accept the gift?
If the donor is a politician looking to cleanse his/her image, is it ok to
accept the funds?
If a corporation is looking to cleanse its image, but that "image problem" is
what your organization is all about, is it ok to accept the money? (For
example, an environmental group accepting money from Exxon after the Valdez
incident, or a substance abuse organization taking money from Anheuser Busch)
If the owners of a local business care about your mission and want to give a
sizable gift, but you believe the product they sell goes counter to your
mission, should you accept their money? (For example, the owners of a topless
bar want to give a sizable gift to your women's crisis shelter.)
Regardless of the source of the funds, and regardless
of whether the uncomfortable party is the staff, the board, or the general
public (perhaps via the media), the worst time to talk about the
appropriateness of a particular donation is when the money has already been
offered. Then you will find that imaginary pile of money is sitting in the
middle of your board table, taunting and guiding your
solution is to use this imaginary dilemma as the starting place for a
conversation with your board about the core values that guide the
organization's decisions. The following questions might
For your organization, are there groups whose contributions might
make some folks uneasy? Who are those groups? Why do those groups matter to
Why is this an issue? What values does this seem to go
How will you know what the right decision should be? What values
would guide the right decision?
How important is it for your organization to walk its talk? What are
possible consequences if you fail to walk that talk?
find this is one of the most lively and important discussions your board can
wait - have your board spend 20 minutes at its next meeting, pondering this
month's brain teaser: How will we know what the right decision