Debunking “Accountability to Donors” Part 2

In my first post on Donor Rights / Donor Accountability, here is what I said:

The notion that organizations are primarily accountable to their donors is a dangerous sidetrack from where organizations must aim their primary accountability if we are to create an amazing future for our communities.

And so here is Post #2, as I continue to debunk the illogical constructs at the heart of the Donor Accountability movement.

Bill Gates vs. My Grandmother
If the Donor Rights advocates are correct, an organization owes its primary accountability to its donors, because their dollars make everything possible.

Does that mean the organization is more accountable to the person who writes a $1 million check than to the person who gives $10? Are we then really talking about a sliding scale of accountability, where the organization is accountable to each and every donor, in direct proportion to the level of his/her gift?

And how does that work out in practice? What exactly do those “donor rights” buy in terms of levels of accountability based on gift size?

Taking that logic one step further, does the same “accountability” apply if the $1 million check came from Bill Gates, representing a fraction of his total wealth, while the $10 came from my grandmother, living on a fixed income, to whom that $10 meant giving up something else she would have purchased that week? What rights would each of them deserve as donors to whom the organization might hold itself accountable?

Which raises the next question – if two donors are making 180 degree opposite requests / demands on an organization, and they both gave the same amount, to whom is the organization accountable? Which one of those donors’ best interests should be the primary concern of the organization?

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.

Click here to go to the next post in this series.

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