Ethical Fundraising - How to Draw the Line

By Katherine Potter

Corporate sponsorships have become an increasingly valuable element of the fundraising strategy for arts organizations. Many corporations appreciate the marketing and visibility opportunities afforded to them as a production or exhibit sponsor, and this can provide a measurable return on investment to executive decision-makers.

When an arts organization brings in a corporate sponsor, however, there can sometimes be a mis-alignment between the company's brand identity and reputation and the arts organization's mission and values. Protests have arisen based on arts' alignment with the tobacco industry, the oil industry, or other industries that are deemed "out of sync" with the sponsored institution. Sometimes the mis-alignment comes suddenly and without expectation - as the #MeToo movement has brought to light unacceptable behavior on the part of the founders of key foundations, like Kevin Spacey and Russell Simmons.

In robust economic times, arts organizations have the opportunity to be selective about their funding and sponsorship partners. However, what happens when that funding is essential to the continuing operations of the non-profit? How does the arts organization decide which contributions are acceptable and which are not acceptable?

Michelle Wright of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme in the UK penned this interesting article for ArtsProfessional on the topic - "How Bad is Bad?"

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