Ethical Dilemmas and the Really Big Bucks

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Big grants are definitely getting bigger, what with all the billionaires running around—and the goals for capital campaigns are getting much bigger, too. Recently, I wrote a newswire about a $500 million challenge grant, made to one organization in pursuit of its capital goal; and today I wrote about the Cleveland Clinic, which just announced its most recent multibillion-dollar campaign. As I ask in both of those newswires, Since most grants of a million-plus dollars are made very locally, do these kinds of campaigns interfere with local funding ecologies? And do very large, very high-prestige organizations have a responsibility to consider the effect of this on other local organizations?

Ethical questions of this kind that take up issues having to do with treating external partners fairly are important to nonprofit effectiveness—and they are important to our reputations and working relationships. So I ask readers today to pose questions to NPQ’s Nonprofit Ethicist that have to do with ethical dilemmas in external relationships.

If you ask your question here, the Ethicist will respond immediately and directly; if we decide to print your question and his response, we will be careful to obscure any identifying details.

And, if you want to know more about the part that very large grants are playing in giving overall, you can read our analysis of Giving USA’s most recent numbers here.