Age UK: The term ‘ethical policy’ alienates beneficiaries and donors

The term “ethical policy” alienates beneficiaries and donors and triggers an intellectual discussion based around personal opinions, Age UK’s director of fundraising has said.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising annual convention on 4 July, Laurie Bolt said it’s more important to consider ‘ethics’ on behalf of the organisation, rather than on a personal level, which is often difficult to do.

“At Age UK, we don’t have a thing that’s called our ‘ethical policy’. Of course we have decision-making frameworks and of course we have ways of considering whether or not we accept a donation, but we don’t call it our ‘ethical policy’,” Bolt said.

“My fear is that it moves us into a purely intellectual discussion and one that potentially really alienates our donors and beneficiaries. I’ve been in the sector for seven years and in my experience, I’ve never been involved in a discussion around ethics that hasn’t been people’s personal opinion.

“What’s important when considering whether or not to enter into a partnership or to accept a donation is to think about what the organisation would think, not your personal opinions. That’s the starting point for Age UK.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t care about ethics or morals, it’s just not what we call it.”

Bolt said the charity instead has a series of frameworks and policies that enable it to make decisions about potential partnerships and accepting or refusing donations.

Her comments came at the same time as the NCVO published a draft code of ethics, recommending charities operate with a ‘presumption of openness and appropriate transparency’.

The code, led by Dame Mary Marsh, is part of a major programme of work, which has been agreed by charities, umbrella bodies, the Charity Commission and the government, following a number of revelations about sexual abuse in international development.

NCVO has said it hopes the code will provide charities with "the sector’s equivalent of the Nolan Principles for public office". Charities will be encouraged to make clear to the public that they are committed to adhering to them.

The proposed principles also call on charities to promote a culture that "does not tolerate harmful behaviour, and to put systems in place to ensure decisions are free from conflict of interest", NCVO said.

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