Ethical Conduct

by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center

In an ethical nonprofit organization, the paid and volunteer personnel of the organization understand the difference between what is acceptable and what is not. A recent study of ethics issues in the nonprofit world reveals poor performance on ethical issues. According to The Ethics Resource Center’s National Nonprofit Ethics Survey, an Insider’s View of Nonprofit Ethics by the Ethics Resource Center:

  • Conduct that violates the law or an organization’s standards is on the rise, and nonprofit violations have reached levels comparable to business and government organizations.
  • Financial fraud is higher in nonprofit organizations than it is in business or government.
  • Boards, while very important in shaping the perceptions of employees regarding ethics, are not taking advantage of their influence to set clear ethics standards for their nonprofit organizations.

It is not enough to claim that your nonprofit strives to act in an ethical manner. Consider the following areas as you grade your performance and adjust your practices.

Review the Paper Trail

Conduct a review of your ethics and ethics-related policies and procedures and ask if they reflect your nonprofit’s commitment to ethical conduct.

Walk Your Talk

Does your nonprofit emphasize ethical conduct from the entrance interview to the exit interview? Do your works back up your words? How often and how effectively are your messages about ethical conduct communicated?

Try Another’s Shoes on For Size

Examine your ethics policies and practices through the eyes of various stakeholders, such as donors, members, clients, and staff. Consider conducting a survey to inquire about how these key participants view the ethics of your nonprofit.

This article was written by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center (NRMC). NRMC is a MCN partner and provides training, technical assistance and informational resources for controlling risks that threaten a nonprofit’s ability to accomplish its mission. For more information about all of MCN’s partners and discount programs for members, visit Cost Saving Programs for MCN Members.

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