Ethics Answers | June 2019

Ethics Answers

Question: May post promise to thank Fourth of July donors for their donations by inviting them to the embassy for a networking event with embassy personnel and selected host-country business and government leaders?  

Answer: No. Promising to invite donors to a networking event at the embassy with host-country business and government leaders is impermissible. The Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) prohibits employees from implying that a donor will receive any advantage or preference from the U.S. government as a result of the donation, including a commitment to invite the donor to official functions, or an assurance that the donor will have preferential access to official facilities. Instead, the FAM dictates that the recognition of donors should be limited to a tasteful listing of names of donors, perhaps displayed on a modest-sized placard near the entrance of the reception areas, in the program or both. If the Chief of Mission believes that it can be tastefully done, he or she may authorize the display of brand name logos or the like on serving tables, uniforms or in similar places, so long as equal opportunity is given to all entities donating. In addition, donors may not be recognized on invitations and any promotional giveaways should be strictly limited to items of nominal value (e.g., balloons, individual beverage containers). Other forms of promotional activity—such as product showcases, donor promotional displays or sale of such items—are generally not appropriate.

Ethics Answers presents hypothetical ethical scenarios Department employees might face. For help with real ethics questions, email

Previous articleSecurity Investment
Next articleAppointments | June 2019