Well, now the AFP has upped the ante in this ongoing discussion, by trying to raise it from being an ethical question, to being a legal one. AFP has now renewed it's call on Congress to officially ban the practice of all percentage-fee based fundraising. This comes on the heals of AFP conducting a survey in which they found that the organizations with the highest fundraising costs were those that paid their fundraisers by percentage.
According to Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP:
These are causes that are near and dear to the hearts of all Americans, but the public's generosity is being abused. Congress needs to act to ban percentage-based fundraising so that the public can rest assured that charities and their fundraising firms are putting the needs of donors first.Now, let me reiterate, that I have always followed the AFP code, and have never charged a contingency fee for grant writing or any other services. But let's take a look at the last few words of that paragraph: "... [put] the needs of donors first.".
Donors first, eh? Not the sustainability of the nonprofit organizations that don't have the cash-flow to pay upfront for fundraising with no guarantee of success? Not ... oh, I don't know ... the clients and communities served by the nonprofit sector?
Again, I still believe that a set fee for services is the proper way to go in most situations, but more and more I'm convinced that a compromise can be reached where nonprofits are not bankrupted by fundraising costs, and contingency fees, with set caps, may be used that meet the needs of everybody involved.
And I also firmly believe that it's about time that donors put the needs of nonprofits ahead of their own.