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Ethical decisions on 3 cases

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Case Studies

Case Study A:
Medical School Foundation:

You are the executive director for a medical school foundation. You have a very active foundation board of directors. The members of the board are dedicated to the mission of the foundation, a majority of the members have significant business experience, and some also serve on other boards. You tell the board you need to hire a major gifts officer (at an annual salary of $60,000) in order to conduct an upcoming capital campaign. Many of the board members are reluctant to commit the resources until they know how much money the new employee will be able to raise.

One board member suggests that the foundation hire a new major gifts officer on a straight commission basis.

Another board member suggests paying the major gifts officer $35,000 as a base salary and then paying the remaining $30,000 to the major gifts officer as a bonus if he/she meets her/his fundraising goal.

How would you respond to these suggestions?


Case Study B:
Donor Jones:

Jones is a consistent $25,000 annual donor to your organization. You met Jones about 15 years ago in your role as director of development and you have become very well acquainted with Jones over the years. Jones is 80 years old, has never been married, has no children, and no surviving relatives. Jones encloses a $25,000 check to your organization in a Christmas card every year. This year you receive the annual Christmas card from Jones, where you find two $25,000 checks enclosed. One check is to your organization and one check is to you personally.

How do you handle this situation?


Case Study C:
Thompson Atrium:

Thompson notified your organization in 1995 that she had included your organization in her estate plan. In your position as a planned giving officer, you visited with Thompson a few times per year and always took her out to lunch on her birthday. Thompson suffered from arthritis and she mentioned to you several times that she was so pleased to know her gift would fund an endowment to support arthritis research after she passes away. Thompson passed away in August of 2007. You receive a letter from Thompson's attorney, along with a copy of Thompson's will. The will provides a $500,000 unrestricted gift to your organization. The chief financial officer (CFO) for your organization would like to use the unrestricted gift to fund a portion of the construction costs for a major new addition to the organization's facility. The CFO suggests naming the atrium in the new facility the "Thompson Atrium" to recognize Thompson's generosity.

What would you say to the CFO?

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Solution Summary

Discussion of three case studies involving ethical decisions dealing with fundraising, and large sums of money, with reasons for the suggested solutions. A sample first and concluding paragraph for the three cases is also provided.

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Case Study A:
Medical School Foundation:
How would you respond to these suggestions?

There is nothing ethically wrong with the suggestions of the board of directors. Hiring on a straight commission basis might very well compromise the ability of the foundation to attract a quality candidate for the job. Furthermore, if the employee exceeds expectations, their salary could rise to levels the board deems unacceptable. Hiring on the second suggestions, 35K up front and the remaining 30K as bonus funds is an excellent idea, satisfying both the nervous board of directors, while still providing incentive to a quality fundraising employee), which is the possibility of a 5K raise for meeting the fundraising goals.


Case Study B:
Donor Jones:
How do you handle this situation?

You must, ethically, return the check made out to you with a ...

Solution provided by:
  • BFA, University of Georgia
  • BSEd, University of Georgia
  • MED, University of Georgia
  • EDd (IP), Northcentral University
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