Overview of Fundraising Norms & Ethics

August 5, 2009


What norms or ethics do govern and should govern fundraising in the Catholic Church?

When The Catholic Foundation has a Fundraising Forum or other large meeting, a question about fundraising norms or ethics usually comes up. A frequent one involves whether fundraising consultants can be paid on commission (the answer is no).

Norms and Ethics are set at various levels.

  • At the highest level is the Code of Canon Law which governs the Universal Catholic Church. Canons 1259-1272 on the Acquisition of Goods are the canons most relevant to fundraising (especially canons 1260, 1262, 1263, 1264, 1265 & 1266). Click HERE to read these Canons.
  • Canon Law also delegates the right to make specific fundraising norms to the Bishops’ Conferences across the world. Here in the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops promulgated norms for all Church fundraising appeals here on June 8, 2007. Click HERE to read those norms.
  • The norms issued by the USCCB also specify that the Diocesan Ordinary (in our case, our Cardinal Archbishop Seán O’Malley) will create specific norms and policies that govern fundraising activity in a diocese. In Boston, our norms are specified in our capital campaign policy and in various sections of the Parish Financial Administration Manual.
  • Finally, fundraisers are governed by the ethics of the profession. A representative list of these ethical norms are published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Click HERE to read these ethics.

These norms and ethics are very well thought out and the result of significant deliberation and consultation. We encourage you to read (or at least skim!) them if you are involved in Church fundraising at any level.


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