ADRP Keynote: What You Can Learn From Recent Nonprofit Scandals

Scandal 3
Everyone loves a good scandal. That's why they fill our newspapers, television programs, and popular websites. But scandals in the nonprofit sector result in diminished or discontinued services, laid off employees, penalties imposed on responsible persons, publicly embarassed board members, and the death of organizations. They also result in a loss of public trust and can lead to substantial changes in the law.

On April 2, 2013, I had the great pleasure of presenting as the keynote speaker for an Association of Donor Relations Professionals Regional Workshop. The topic:  What You Can Learn From Recent Nonprofit Scandals.

Here are 7 key points from my presentation:

  • Board composition and numbers matter; guard against founder's syndrome
  • Policies are important but must be understood, implemented and enforced
  • Public perception is critical – be careful of conflicts of interest and sweetheart transactions, even if they are not unlawful – be responsive 
  • Communications responding to crises that are only CYA pieces will not fool the public
  • Delegate, but only with due care and proper oversight (e.g., reporting)
  • Outside assistance can be invaluable (e.g., audits, legal opinions, investigations)
  • Donor relations professionals should review their organizations' key communications, including their websites and the Form 990

Here are 3 opinion articles for The Chronicle of Philanthopy we've written covering recent nonprofit scandals:

'Three Cups of Tea' Scandal Offers Lessons for Charities and Trustees

Avoiding Trouble: What Nonprofits Can Learn From Sex-Abuse Scandal

Basic Board Governance Failures Stand at the Center of the Penn State Debacle