Is it ethical to benefit from pre-orders tied to a charity event?


When organizing a charity fashion show, would it be ethical for the designer/organizer to profit from pre-orders generated by the show?


Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, Cofounder of Founders Space

This is a difficult question to answer. But maybe I can help. First, ask yourself if someone else did this, would you consider it unethical? Imagine it is one of your competitors, and they did exactly the same thing, would you consider it to be crossing the line? That’s your answer.

Another way to approach this is to ask yourself what the risk is. Even if something isn’t technically unethical, simply the suggestion of impropriety can damage your reputation. So what is the value of your reputation vs. what would you gain by profiting from the pre-orders?

Another way to deal with this is to ask the charity for permission and get it in writing. Make the pre-orders as part of the deal, and openly state this. If everyone agrees that you are entitled to make a profit from the pre-orders, and it’s fully disclosed that this has nothing to do with the charity event, then you are clearly doing nothing wrong.

Again, there are no rules when it comes to this sort of thing, but merely by asking the question, you are bringing up a scenario where someone can point a finger at you. If your reputation is important to you, I would error on the conservative side and give everything associated with the charity event to the charity, unless it’s explicitly agreed upon and communicated to both the customers and the charity that you will be keeping the profits from all pre-orders.

In other words, I recommend that if you want to profit from the pre-orders, whenever a customer pre-orders, you make it crystal clear in writing that this isn’t part of the charity drive, and you also make clear to the charity, that it is your policy to keep the pre-order profits.

I hope this helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. Budha Has says:

    “In case of a drop in cabin pressure, the oxygen masks will drop from the storage above you. Pull the mask over your head, and breathe normally. Please attend to yourself first, before attending to children.”

    i.e., If a certain part of the money has to be taken out for putting up a good show, which in turn will generate more cash for charity – You should do it. It is not a question of ethics, it is a question of if you can organize the charity show.

    However be extra sure that the event financials are well documented, agreed upon early enough by way of event management/designer-engagement contracts with the Charity/NGO, and in black and white. Charity events are emotion driven activities. A small stain on the reputation can sometimes lead to a point of no return in terms of ill-will for the Charity and the organizers.

    Oh my flight reference:

    “In case of a drop in cabin pressure, the oxygen masks will drop from the storage above you. Pull the mask over your head, and breathe normally.”
    i.e. if without taking money from the pre-orders, the event gets out of breath, please take some. Ensure that it is included in a contract with the Charity. This will ensure that you have cash for organizing the event, and things will move smoothly.

    “Please attend to yourself first, before attending to children.”
    Ethically, it might sound wrong. But its not. Ensure that the show will happen, and the charity event will be successful. No event, no charity fund-raiser.