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Ethics and Risk Assessment


At the 2018 GPA Annual Conference during the Ethics Discussion Den, we discussed how difficult it can be to make a case for the GPA Code of Ethics to organization decisionmakers who are not Grant Professionals. The concept of Risk Assessment was suggested as a useful framework.

We started our discussion by asking “What are the most common ethical dilemmas you find yourself facing in your work as a Grant Professional?”
 
There were several situations discussed, but many of them were similar. The most common dilemma was that an entity or a program for which a grant was being written did not fully comprehend ethical standards as related to grant applications, awards, and management. Further, they were requesting that the Grant Professional write or manage grants in a way that could be found to be unethical. For example, the program staff wanted to promise more than could reasonably be delivered, despite good intentions. Or, the agency wanted to change the way the funds were being used, in a way that was out of alignment with the original application, without being transparent with the grantor. Or, the organization wanted to make an application stronger by selectively utilizing only part of the available statistics, essentially bending the truth.
 
GPA has a professional Code of Ethics which guides the behavior of Grant Professionals. But sometimes, we work for organizations and leaders that are not familiar with that Code of Ethics, or they don't fully understand why the Code of Ethics is important. But they do understand risk. This could be where we find common ground.
 
If the organization or agency has any federal funding, or funding from a state or local entity that receives federal funding being passed through to subrecipients, there are new specific requirements about risk assessment in the 2 CFR Part 200 federal regulations. Federal grantors will be required to assess the risk of possible grant recipients, so those organizations seeking federal funds will need to be prepared.
 
The areas of risk to be assessed include the ability to manage grants according to standards, how well the organization has performed in the past, compliance with requirements, and even financial stability. Lucy Morgan of MyFedTrainer.com provides training and resources about the Risk Assessment requirements grantees need to follow. She will be at the GPA Conference again in November 2019.
 
In short, the federal government wants to know that grantees are managing the funds they receive in a responsible, ethical, transparent way. Our GPA Code of Ethics supports this requirement.
 
But what about those organizations that don't receive federal funding? There are still many potential risks of not handling grants ethically. If the foundation that has awarded funds finds that you have not spent the funds as indicated, or were not able to deliver as promised, your future funding is at risk. Many private, community, and corporate foundations are adopting risk management, or “due diligence” questions, in their evaluation of potential grantees. If your organization cannot demonstrate that they handle funds in an ethical, accountable, and transparent manner, it is not likely to be funded. And, once an organization has received poor press around an ethical situation, the impact can be long lasting, and far reaching.

GPCI Competency:  Competency #6: Knowledge of nationally recognized standards of ethical practice by grant developers; Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers

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