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11.3.09
Old Problem Arises In Structure

0f “New” Department

The notice, which appeared late last week on the Archdiocesan website (www.Antiochian.org), tucked in-between longer stories concerning updates to the Order of St. Ignatius website and a story about the Metropolitan presenting a gift to the Ecumenical Patriarch, was brief. The two sentences read:

‘Archdiocese Launches Dept. of Planning and Development

The Antiochian Archdiocese has launched the new Department of Planning and Development. To learn more about this effort, and read Metropolitan PHILIP’s letter of appointment, click here ..”

Following the click, one reads:

Planning and Development was created for exactly what the title implies. It is a new approach to cultivate the tremendous talents which the faithful of this Archdiocese have. The dreams and visions are accomplished through the generosity and help of our philanthropists and humanitarians who believe in the growing need in our North American Archdiocese, in order to reaffirm their faith and rebuild their spiritual lives. The Antiochian Archdiocese, as the overseer of our people, tries to provide for all of our faithful the expected services needed for this and the next generation. A larger scale approach will help achieve the goals that will enrich our lives.


To accomplish this mission, Metropolitan PHILIP has chosen Economos Antony Gabriel as Chairman of this department.”

Another click brings one to Fr. Gabriel’s letter of appointment, dated September 11, 2009, in which the Metropolitan writes:

The meeting which was attended by His Grace, Bishop Antoun, Mr. Robert Laham, the Treasurer of the Archdiocese; Mr. Peter Dacales, assistant comptroller; myself and you was very productive. The issues which were discussed were of utmost important to the present and future of this God-protected Archdiocese. I thought that the agreement which we made is mutually beneficial.

Based on the principles to which we agreed, I do hereby appoint you Chairman of the Department of Planning and Development of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. I have no doubt because of your ability to communicate with people you will serve this department with much dedication and success.“

None of this was really “new”. The Archdiocese has long sought a program for planned giving, an administrative vehicle to coordinate major gifts. The most recent incarnation was run by Ms. Ruth Skaff. As the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) explains it: “Nonprofit organizations often hire professional consultants to assist in the development and execution of fundraising campaigns. Most fundraising consultants are specialists in one area, such as researching prospects, conducting studies, planning events, directing capital campaigns, performing program audits, developing constituencies, or serving as counsel.” In this case the Metropolitan turned to an Archdiocesan “insider” Fr. Antony Gabriel, pastor of St. George Cathedral in Montreal, Canada, to appoint to the position. Few seem to be as “inside” as Fr. Gabriel, who most recently represented the Metropolitan at the June 2009 Synod meeting in Damascus. (Read about his wife’s description of  those events here.)

While the announcement made clear that the “agreement was mutually beneficial,” it did not mention how Fr. Gabriel would be compensated for his efforts.  According to the presentation made to the Board of Trustees at their recent meeting in Houston, Fr. Gabriel is to receive 4% of the funds he raises. And therein lies a problem - a very old ethical problem.

“To be ethical”, says the industry standard-bearer, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), “philanthropic fundraising must be mission-led, institutionally based, volunteer-driven, and professionally supported in an environment free of improper motive, unreasonable reward, or personal inurement.” The AFP Ethics Committee very blunt about percentage based compensation: “Percentage-based compensation encourages abuses, imperils the integrity of the voluntary sector, and undermines the very philanthropic values on which it is based.”

According to the AFP, a nonprofit organization, like the Archdiocese, “....can expect to pay a consultant on the basis of his or her experience and complexity of the assignment - but not a percentage of total funds raised.” This distinction, the AFP, points out, “reflects one of the fundamental differences between nonprofit fundraising and commercial solicitation.” In an article for Management Issues (December 1995), Robert Pierpont, CFRE, chairman of the Florida-based fundraising consulting firm Pierpont and Wilkerson, Ltd., crystallizes the distinction: “An act of philanthropy is not truly an economic exchange and, consequently, a fundraising executive is not a broker.”

In their current position paper on compensation (www.afpnet.org) the AFP notes that percentage-based compensation violates Standard No. 16: “Members shall not accept compensation that is based on a percentage of charitable contributions; nor shall they accept finder’s fees” . It also violates Standard No. 18: “Members shall not pay finder’s fees, or commissions or percentage compensation based on charitable contributions, and shall take care to discourage their organizations from making such payments.” While the Archdiocese is not a member of the AFP, the questions and concerns the AFP raises are valid for all non-profits.

The AFP notes that while percentage-based compensation methods are “... common practice in the commercial sector, nonprofits are governed by a set of laws and regulations that differs from those for private industry. Nonprofits rely on volunteers for governance and support, and they aim to serve a broad social constituency. Percentage-based compensation sets up a conflict of interest. A consultant’s desire for personal gain shouldn’t trump the broader social interests of the organization.”

The AFP therefore warns that “consultants motivated by personal gain could unduly pressure a donor to make a contribution, without consideration of the donor’s wishes or timetable. And if the practice became widely known, the organization’s reputation and credibility could suffer irreparable harm...”

More specfiically the AFP asks: “What if a consultant were to receive compensation based on an unsolicited gift or on an annual contribution that commenced before and continues after the consultant leaves? Such reward without merit would create resentment among organization staff and donors. Since many contributions are the result of teamwork among organization staff and consultants, no one person should be able to cart off the rewards of that effort.”

In other words, percentage compensation risks putting the self-interest of the fundraiser above the mission of the Archdiocese, may cause donors to postpone or “hide” contributions so as to avoid paying a fund raiser, and as a result may severely curtail major gifts.  As one professional fundraiser explained to OCANews.org:  "A million dollar donor looks across the table and thinks, 'I have to pay this guy $40,000 for me to give a million?' Another issue: how do you count planned gifts? How do you count gifts that come in a year after the fund raiser has a visit with a donor? Are pledges to be counted? Or is it to be actual deposits in the bank? What if it is an annual gift? How would that person begin to feel about the contribution in light of this? What if a team effort is required to secure the gift? Would non-compensated team members feel slighted? Compensation based on percentages convolutes and muddies the entire process. Worse, it allows people to question Metropolitan Philip’s commitment to ethical behavior."

- Mark Stokoe

 
 

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