Scenario of the Quarter

As part of AFP-GLAC’s Eye on Ethics, we will feature different scenarios quarterly to empower our members in addressing ethical dilemmas or concerns. 

Submitted anonymously in June 2018: The Mystery Box

I was working for what I thought was a well-respected nonprofit as their Director of Development. I was trained to tell all individual and foundation donors and prospective donors about our proudest achievement, which was a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant we had won from the Department of Labor. It was an extremely competitive grant, and I believe my organization was either the only recipient or one of a very small number of recipients across the nation.

I sang the praises of our achievements with this amazing grant until one day, when I unexpectedly came upon a box of old dusty files in our director's office. At first, I was excited because I could see the box held our original grant request and all the correspondence between us and Department of Labor about the grant. I had always wanted to learn more about this grant.”

“What I learned for the first time as I read through the files was that the heart of the funded project included plans to open a large thrift shop that would be staffed by domestic violence victims and homeless and runaway youth who needed to learn work skills. Not only had this never come to fruition, but I later learned from co-workers that the organization accepted thrift store donations for years, rented a huge storage space to keep the items, and eventually began dumping the donations meant for its store at unrelated stores such as the local Goodwill in the dead of night.

The organization did let the Department of Labor know they didn't open a thrift store, but they saw no problem with publicizing far and wide their achievement in winning the grant. We were all trained to talk about a small side project the grant also covered that was completed. Meanwhile, the core of the initial proposal was never mentioned to anyone. I was shocked, had further ethical and other issues with them, and did not stay at the organization very long.


Previous featured scenarios

July 2019: Hands-On Donor

I was 23 years old at the time enjoying our Alumni Reception event. There I met Mr. Wall Street, an older man, married, father of three, and a much-valued donor of the educational institution where I worked. I was young new in the Development field. I was excited to be part of this amazing department and eager to learn all I could.

At the event, various alumni were speaking about their careers and their involvement with the educational institution. After I was introduced to Mr. Wall Street, we initially had some small talk. Throughout the evening, he kept approaching me and engaging me in more conversation, trying to get to know me better.  We exchanged business cards. I noticed he was overly friendly but did not really think this would lead to anything because he was a married man. Again, I was 23 years old and naïve.

The following Monday, I received an email from Mr. Wall Street indicating he would love to get together. I was a bit unsure if he meant to discuss the educational institution, the possibility of a gift, or something else. As his phone calls and emails continued, I realized he wanted more than just conversation. At one point, he offered to fly me to where he lived, pick me up in a limo and take me shopping at an expensive jewelry store. I thanked him for his offer but declined. That led to another email of him wanting to fly to where I lived and take me out for an evening and stay the night in an expensive hotel.

At this point, I didn’t know what to do. I was scared to tell anyone, as I did not want to seem unprofessional. The calls and emails continued and that’s when I felt I had to tell someone. I went and spoke to my manager and showed her the emails he had sent me. She was appreciative that I informed her about the situation. I also expressed my apprehension about her sharing this information with anyone else. She decided that she would contact Mr. Wall Street herself and handle the situation.

She did and he apologized to her for his inappropriateness, although he never apologized to me. From there on, any alumni events he was attending, I was no longer allowed to attend. My manager felt this was a way to protect me from his advances and still maintain his donor relationship with the educational institution. I’m not sure how I felt about it. I guess because he was a donor, we had to make him comfortable, even if that meant me feeling uncomfortable about being left out.

Please note: If you are experiencing sexual harassment at your place of work, check and see if your employer has an anti-harassment policy and follow the steps for reporting the harassment. If your employer does not have a policy in place, talk with your supervisor. Further information may be found with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In 2018, AFP did a survey partnering with the AFP Foundation and Chronicle of Philanthropy on sexual harassment in the workplace. For more information about the survey, please click here.

March 2019: The Perfect Candidate?

Michael Driebe, President of Methodist Hospital Foundation shares his story:

As a long-standing member of AFP through the Greater Los Angeles Chapter, the international organization has always felt somewhat distant and less significant to me than the local one.  That perception changed recently over an issue of ethics. 

We are currently seeking a major gift officer and through a recruiter found a candidate who appeared to be the perfect fit.  His resume and interviews highlighted longevity, a track record of remarkable performance, expertise in everything from special events to planned gifts, as well as, outstanding leadership experience. 

A subsequent on-line search, however, turned up a bit of disturbing information.  His name appeared as having been sanctioned by AFP. I clicked on the link, but since it was no longer active I called the office in Alexandria, Virginia.  I reached a staff member who confirmed that someone with the same name as my candidate was sanctioned for violating one of AFP's twenty-five ethical principles and was "banned for life from membership" in the organization.  She went on to explain that the record was sealed and that she could not discuss the particulars of the case.”

“I then asked the recruiter to reach out to the candidate who emphatically stated he was ‘not aware of any such sanction.’  Thinking this might be a case of mistaken identity, AFP was contacted again, and using the candidate's employment history we found it was indeed the same person. Incidentally, we learned the candidate was well aware of the sanction as it was reported he fought it vigorously. The particulars of his sanction, including the case he made in his defense remain confidential, but because he chose not to reveal the incident and denied it ever took place, I realized I no longer had the ‘perfect candidate.’  

As you can imagine, my perception about the value of AFP has certainly changed. While I had not seen it in action as frequently as I did the Greater Los Angeles Chapter, I came to find it was just as relevant and important. I am now even more grateful for the ethical principles AFP promotes and upholds, and hope the story I've shared has helped you better appreciate our international organization, as well.