Percentage-based commissions for fundraisers top the list of unethical behavior in a recent survey.
The survey, conducted by the Glenview, Ill.-based Giving Institute, polled 445 professionals working with or in the nonprofit sector.
Half said they could cite specific instances of unethical behavior they had witnessed over the course of their careers.
Nearly all agreed ethics is an important component of philanthropic fundraising, with 98 percent saying nonprofits should look for a code of ethics when hiring professional fundraising counsel.
“Knowing that people in the field intend to follow ethical principles and think they are an important component of fundraising should bring confidence to donors,” George C. Ruotolo Jr., chair of Giving Institute, says in a statement.
Yet 83 percent of those surveyed believed confidence in the fundraising profession has been damaged, particularly by media reporting of instances of unethical behavior.
Such cases are even more significant when fundraisers are draining the fruits of their own labor.
Of the $300 billion raised by U.S. nonprofits each year, nearly 13 percent, or $40 billion, may have been lost to fraud in 2006, according to a survey by the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
Giving Institute is an international association of philanthropic consulting firms.