#11 Decision checklist for assessing potential funders

This is intended as a decision-making guide for boards, management and consultative forums for organisations in the cultural sector.

This is not intended to lay down hard ‘red lines’, but to help organisations arrive at agreements that some funders, sources of money and particular sponsorship deals are much more harmful than others. Going through this process thoroughly will dispel the relativist notion that all money is tainted, and will help organisations to communicate their ethical decisions back to funders, staff and the public.


Assess the impact of a potential funder

Prompts are included below each question, as a resource for this task.

Historic responsibility

What is their historic contribution to a range of harms? And what harm is likely to emerge in planned activities? 

These harms might include: 

  • Ecocide or harmful land use change e.g. from deforestation, soil degradation, intensive animal agriculture, pollution and irresponsible waste, extractive mining, overfishing etc.
  • Greenhouse Gas emissions e.g. from fossil fuels, or from the destruction of ecosystems that are carbon sinks
  • Animal exploitation and slaughter
  • Not respecting the rights of people with protected characteristics, in actions or relationships
  • Causing ill health on a significant scale
  • Exploitation of people in labour e.g. dangerous conditions, trafficking or indentured workers
  • Profiteering e.g. by flipping properties or shorting the market
  • Involvement in corruption e.g. fraud, illegal trades, manipulation of democracies etc.
  • Producing, trading in or training in arms and other technologies of violence
  • Financing of any of the above
  • Advertising or promotion of any of the above.

To what extent are these harms a legacy of the organisation, or are they still being pursued? 

What is the scale of the organisation and the harm it causes? 

What about their current governance?

  • How unequal are they in terms of salaries and bonuses, and decision-making? 
  • If they are promising to change, is there any scrutiny done already on how authentic and meaningful this is? 
  • How transparent are they about their ethics and footprint, their relationships and lobbying activities? 

What influence do they want to have?

Is the funding arrangement showing signs, for this project or others, that they are using it to achieve dubious corporate goals

These might be: 

  • Seeking social licence to operate harmfully
  • Wanting to influence narratives or framings of a particular issue, for example in choices of imagery
  • Wanting to choose the topic that they fund because it aligns with wishes to influence public understanding or policy.  

The value of the deal

How will it help us? What is the value of the deal to us?

  • Are they exploiting you? How much is the funding worth for you, and what are they asking for in return? 
  • Does it compromise your charitable objects and policies?
  • Is there room for staff and stakeholders to be consulted? 
  • Is there strictly no alternative to carrying out the project, with this particular funding? (e.g. anything other than essential repairs or financial rescue.)

Continue working through the guide

Pathways To Action: Tools for an Emergency Response


Skip links

  1. Top
  2. Skip to content top
  3. Skip to quick links
  4. Skip to main menu
  5. Skip to search