Nothing gets my teeth gnashing like the discussion of Donor Rights and Donor Accountability. It is such a dangerous sidetrack from where organizations must aim their primary accountability if we are to create an amazing future for our communities. And yet, the notion that organizations are primarily accountable to their donors prevails, and it is growing daily.
The essence of Donor Rights / Accountability is that organizations are primarily accountable to their donors, as the donors (according to this theory) are the organization’s investors – the ones that make everything possible. Therefore, organizations owe their primary accountability to those donors, for spending the donors’ money wisely.
It sounds good at face value, but it is a logic that goes beyond being just seriously flawed (which it is). It is a concept that is hazardous to the ability of community organizations to create visionary improvement to the quality of life in our communities.
And so, over the next few weeks, I will be debunking, one by one, the illogical constructs that lie at the heart of the Donor Accountability movement.
To open the discussion, let’s start with an easy one.
Consider that rare animal – the fully funded, fully endowed organization.
If organizations are primarily accountable to their donors and funders, and an organization has no donors to be accountable to, to whom is the organization accountable?
And if the logic works for that organization, why is the logic different if someone has given a donation?
Does accountability really relate to the level of organizational financial security? If an organization starts out with many donors, and over the years grows an endowment to the point where it needs to do virtually no fundraising resulting in very few, if any donors – to whom is the organization accountable?
And does true accountability really change over time if an organization’s purpose does not change over that time?
The questions “To whom are we accountable? And for what?” are about more than just dollars and donors. These questions are at the heart of everything community organizations are able to accomplish. And the reason for that is simple: We accomplish what we hold ourselves accountable for.
If we hold ourselves accountable for creating an amazing future for our communities, our donors will be happy, because our communities will be healthy, vibrant, resilient, humane places to live. And we will provide those results by being fiscally prudent and gracious to our donors, simply because it is impossible to produce incredible results if we do our work in any other way.
Head to the next post in this series.