It’s Time to Speak Up


By Meg Roberts

February 3, 2021

Pardon me. Does anyone have a soapbox I could borrow?

Listen Up Fundraisers!

We all love philanthropy. We love that our fellow humans want to find meaningful and effective ways to help others, preserve our environment or our history, advance education. We are proud to be part of the philanthropic process.

Many of us advocate for tangible benefits to encourage donors to give more freely. Benefits such as tax deductions or hassle-free methods of transferring wealth to those in need. Backstage passes to meet talented performers. Maybe a little swag for becoming a “member.”

But not one of us should allow early or easy access to Covid-19 vaccines to donors!

In fact, we as an industry need to make it clear that this is not acceptable. Recently, several news reports have exposed that some non-profit medical centers have given special vaccine access to top donors. Yes, in most cases those donors still had to meet the requirements of the phased vaccine roll-out such as age or profession. But they did not have to go through the process so many of the elderly in our country are currently navigating – swamped phone lines, crashed websites, very long queues.

Allowing major donors access to the vaccine is wrong on so many fronts:

  1. It widens the chasm between the wealthy and all others in our country.
  2. It cheapens the act of philanthropy, making our industry ripe for appropriate criticism and possible sanctions that could eliminate many appropriate benefits our industry has fought for.
  3. It degrades consumer confidence in the non-profit institutions entrusted with the distribution of vaccines.

And if those reasons aren’t enough, it may also lead to an exodus of donors who no longer trust that their money is well used by those organizations bypassing the typical distribution system. I, for one, would never encourage a donor to give to a medical center that is so cavalier with such a precious vial.

As development professionals, we should all be appalled. And we should all be on soapboxes shouting that this is unacceptable in our profession.

You can borrow this one. Please use your platform wisely and broadly to ensure the ethics of our industry.

“P.S. After this post was written, AFP issued a statement against access to vaccines. And Vu Le at Nonprofit AF posted an excellent blog about the topic, especially as it relates to inequity in our country. Please check out both.”


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