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Krista Thompson, Executive director of Covenant House

Nothing is more important to a charity than the trust of the people and organizations that support them. Maintaining that trust is at the forefront of everything they do, says Krista Thompson, executive director of Covenant House, a safe haven for homeless and at-risk youth in Vancouver.

“We know that donors only give to organizations they trust – organizations that do what they say they will do with donors’ money,” she says. “The three most important things we can do to maintain trust is to be accountable to all stakeholders for our actions, provide easy access to detailed financial information and provide performance metrics that show we are delivering on our mission.”

Ms. Thompson says in her experience the top three questions donors want answered when it comes to a charity’s ethical behaviour are:

What impact is your organization having on the issues I care about?

What evidence can you provide that you are achieving your mission?

How will my donation be used to further the mission of the organization?

We celebrate ethics – and the trust that allows us to create connections with donors, which in turn leads to inspiration and impact.

Krista Thompson, Executive director of Covenant House

“We build and preserve public trust by being able to answer those questions to donors’ satisfaction,” she adds. “Too often, the issue of ethics only comes up in a negative light, such as when there’s a controversy. But trust is exactly what makes philanthropy possible. We celebrate ethics – and the trust that allows us to create connections with donors, which in turn leads to inspiration and impact.”

Charities and fundraisers who belong to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) are expected to abide by the Association’s Code of Ethics. Adopted in 1964, the Code encompasses 25 professional standards that protect the interests of donors and the organizations they support.

Although AFP membership is voluntary and not all charities are members, membership is a strong indication to donors that a charity is committed to specific standards and practices and that unethical behaviour can have serious consequences.

“As members of AFP, fundraisers agree to be bound by the Code. Its enforcement procedures are integral to its core principals. Violation of the standards will subject a member to disciplinary sanctions, suspension of membership or permanent expulsion from AFP,” says Ms. Thompson.

In addition, AFP, with the help of other organizations, has created the Donor Bill of Rights, which lists 10 expectations that a donor should have when making a gift to an organization. The document can be found on the AFP website (, under Ethics), and donors should compare their experiences to the bill of rights and ensure they are being treated appropriately and ethically.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.