I know a lot of fundraising professionals. Some fundraising professionals are like myself. They are effective fundraisers because they are passionate about the causes they support. They have a deep connection to the mission, and that connection drives them to build support for it so it can grow and grow. They stay with their organizations for a long time, decades in some cases. In my experience, this dedicated group is small and their numbers are few.
Other fundraisers are like certain people in the sales profession who can sell anything to anybody, and they are able to raise money for any organization or cause. They see fundraising as nothing more than a job to pay their bills. They are good at convincing others to support their employers, but they really do not have a personal connection to the mission or cause. They are mercenaries, guns for hire, so to speak. They will work for any organization that will sign their paycheck. Considering the high turnover rate for fundraisers and relatively short tenures that are common in the profession, I think that a large percentage of development professionals are in this latter group.
Now there may come a day when a position opens up in an organization that would be good for your career. The pay and benefits are good, and success working for this organization would look good on your resume, but as a condition of employment, the organization requires that you abide by their standard of conduct. An example of this comes in a story I came across in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The story discusses how the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has changed the contracts of employees to include examples of personal behavior it finds contrary to the Catholic doctrine that can result in termination of employment. While the article specifically mentions teachers, it is likely to include other employees like administrators and fundraising staff as well. Some of the banned activities would include using social media to advocate for birth control, abortion, and gay marriage. Other activities like sexual activity outside of marriage, actively engaging in a same sex relationship, using in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination would also cost you your job. Could you honestly sign your name to a contract like that and live by those rules if they are contrary to your personal beliefs?
What about taking a job with a more secular group that advocates for gay marriage or abortion rights if you are an active Catholic or a member of another conservative religious group? If you are an animal rights activist, should you take a job with a medical advocacy group and honestly seek support that finances experiments on animals while searching for a cure for cancer, AIDS, or some other disease? Could you whole-heartedly advocate for an organization with a mission like that? Can you compartmentalize your personal beliefs and fully serve your employer the way our ethical standards require?
The first tenet in the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards says “Members shall not engage in activities that harm the members’ organizations, clients or profession.” According to the guidelines included in the long version, when you sign on as an employee of an organization, you advocate fully for your new employer and agree to do nothing personally or professionally that might harm the organization or its reputation. You are ethically bound to do your best for them, and refrain from publicly or privately supporting actions that they do not allow.
Over the years, I have had to refrain from applying for positions that had requirements I could not live with. Those decisions were difficult to make, but since I knew I could not fully support a group because it went against my personal beliefs, I know I did the right thing for me and the organization.
So when you are looking for that next position, think carefully about what the organization stands for and make sure that you can fully support it. Research it and find out everything you can about it. If you cannot fully support the organization or its core beliefs, do not take the job. Don’t even apply for it. You will save the organization and yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.