Schools hold fundraisers each year and behavior by their parent volunteers may endanger the very communities they are trying to support. From candy bar sales to grand gala celebrations, many parents volunteer without considering the responsibility that comes with it. Well-intentioned parent volunteers can make mistakes their organizations could be held accountable for so avoiding these dilemmas takes effort and cooperation.
Helen T. McCullough, principal of Arboretum Technology in Wheaton, advises corporate clients on ethical behavior. McCullough suggests those in leadership roles in the fundraiser need to set the rules and be clear about expectations with volunteers.
McCullough recommends telling volunteers up front, "Volunteering is 100 percent giving. There will be no taking." Organizations can also create something similar to a corporate Code of Conduct or Ethics Policy "as a blueprint of how they are going to operate" the fundraiser. Additionally, McCullough mentions three key items for volunteers: "Be honest and fair. Respect each other. Act with dignity."
Plainfield parent Sarah Koplinksi, regional director for the Prairie Land Region, Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society, offers several tips for parent volunteers. She tells volunteers to give tough decisions the "front page test—if this information or action made the front page of the local daily, would it raise questions, eyebrows or concerns? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it shouldn’t happen."
One challenge for parent volunteers is the limited number of resources available. When it comes to ethics and fundraising, a large gray area exists, and guidelines vary from state to state. A good Illinois resource is Donors Forum at www.donors
forum.org. The Web site includes how-to tips, related links and other tools, as well as a booklet, Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices, which serves as a guide for nonprofit organizations. They also have a library downtown and several philanthropy centers throughout the area.
So go ahead and get involved. Just remember to do it in a responsible, ethical manner.