By now, you may have heard about the Overlake Hospital scandal where donors who gave $10,000 or more were offered appointments to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, this is happening across the country, including in Rhode Island, Kansas, New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida. These breaches of ethics are absolutely infuriating, especially considering the inequity. White folks are immunized at greater rates, even though Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people have been dying at significantly higher rates.
Donors getting special treatment is not new. Last week I asked colleagues to send me stories. Here are a few of the many replies, with minor edits for clarity and length:
- “A major cancer center that I used to work for had a dedicated state member in the capital gifts area for making sure major donors got priority treatment.”
- “At a prior job, my boss, the VP of Development, used to routinely get donors into better hospital rooms, speed up the care in the emergency room and push doctors for quick appointments for those major donors.”
- “I was told that although donors don’t ‘jump the queue,’ it was quite common for docs to go to donors’ houses privately on their days off… presumably offering them treatment ‘outside of the queue.’”
- “[I was] asked by the development team to create a handicapped parking place/placard/etc. for a guest who wasn’t happy with her farther-away parking at a very popular event where parking was a premium. This person didn’t have a disability as far I know.”
Anecdotes also abound of donors being given a pass for sexual harassment, nepotism, ableism, etc.:
- “I once worked at a major national org that had HIGHLY competitive internships—and one of our biggest donors asked if her son could have an internship. And of course, he got it.”
- “Someone who donates to many other local orgs cut a check and then indicated that more would come if he could have a threesome. He is in his 80s and married.”
- “Annual gala. I’m the DD for the org. Donor and friend of a board member drinks too much. I offer to call him a cab. He corners me, aggressively yells at me, grabs my ass and then…a week later, refuses to pay the $5,000 he racked up that night. Worst of all of it—board member friend and ED would do nothing to address his behavior either that night or in the time following. They said I misread the situation. I quit before I ever had to be in a room with him again.”
These stories are numerous. But how can they not be? Our donor-centered fundraising practices are grounded in two toxic philosophies: 1. The goal of fundraising is to raise as much money as possible for our individual missions. And 2. To do that well, we need to make sure donors are happy.
These deceptively simple philosophies, ingrained over decades, naturally lead to the above situations and exacerbate the inequity we’re trying to address. The first forces us into a deadly hunger games competition with one another to see which organizations can get the most funds.
Read the full article about donor-centered fundraising practices by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.
Since you are interested in North America, have you read these selections from Giving Compass related to impact giving and North America?
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