Crowdfunding’s Ethical Boundaries| Are You Ready to Say No? | npENGAGE

Are You Ready to Say No? | Crowdfunding’s Ethical Boundaries

By on Sep 4, 2014


For weeks we’ve watched the ALS #IceBucketChallenge grow exponentially and as fundraisers, we dream of a campaign like this going viral and a windfall of unexpected resources dropping into our coffers.

But what happens when the money being raised is coming from an unethical place?

Over the weekend, several female celebrities had their personal devices hacked, photos stolen, and illegally posted on the internet.  These pictures began appearing on sites around the internet, including a subReddit called The Fappening. One Reddit user proposed that anyone who looked at these illegal photos should donate money to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Donations quickly began to pile up, The Fappening donation page was a top donor for the day, and Redditors were congratulating themselves for the philanthropic work.

Not everyone was impressed

On Tuesday, September 2, the Prostate Cancer Foundation released the following statement:

A post appeared on Reddit late Monday afternoon, September 1, 2014. A Reddit user directed other Reddit users to make a donation to the Prostate Cancer Foundation without the Foundation’s knowledge. We would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner. Out of respect for everyone involved and in keeping with our own standards, we are returning all donations that resulted from this post.

This statement was met with mixed responses from Reddit users, ranging from:

Apparently [celebrity’s name] is more important than a cure for cancer…


Guys, we’re literally worse than cancer.

Let me be clear

The statement released by the Prostate Cancer Foundation was in no way saying that a celebrity is more important than their mission. What their statement says is that funds raised through unsanctioned crowdfunding, based on illegal activity, are a violation of their own standards and ethics.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has developed a set of ethical standards to help guide fundraising professionals. Included in these standards is the statement that fundraisers should aspire to practice their profession with integrity. Kudos to the Prostate Cancer Foundation for adhering to their standards and demonstrating what fundraising with integrity can look like.

Are you ready to say no?

Successful crowdfunding is not often initiated by an organization. The peer-to-peer nature of crowdfunding is what makes it both a wonderful gift and a beastly burden. And while we all dream dreams filled with ice buckets going viral and dumping a new windfall into our coffers, we have to be equally prepared for undesired fundraising, like the Fappening’s misguided support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

With Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to crowdfunding, rapidly approaching, now is a perfect time to assess and outline a strategy for crowdfunding and evaluate your organization’s fundraising standards.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have clear fundraising standards?
  • Are you ready to manage an influx of donors and dollars?
  • Are you ready to say yes to unsolicited gifts?
  • Are you prepared to say no?

UPDATE: In the day since we published this post another organization,, has also stopped accepting donations from the Fappening.


Holly Elizabeth Herbert is the best practices manager for Blackbaud’s eTapestry team. She works with nonprofit clients to optimize their fundraising and public relations efforts through the application of database technology. Holly has more than a decade of experience working in nonprofit PR and fundraising and brings a passion for metrics-driven, donor-centric strategies to her work at Blackbaud. Holly has a Master’s degree in Public Relations from Indiana University and has worked on PR campaigns for local, regional, and national nonprofit organizations. In her free time, Holly is an avid urban dweller and glitter aficionado. Connect with Holly on Twitter at @hollyeherbert.

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