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Ethics Awareness Month

GPA has joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals in recognizing October as Ethics Awareness Month. In order to increase awareness of the GPA Code of Ethics, the Ethics Committee endeavors to provide ongoing learning opportunities related to ethics in the grants profession. Recently, several questions have come to us related to the presentation of information in an ethical way. This article reflects on some of the primary questions related to information presentation for grant applications and proposals.

Standard 5 in the GPA Code of Ethics under Professional Obligations states: Members shall not be associated directly or indirectly with any service, product, individuals, or organizations in a way that they know is misleading.
This standard encompasses a lot of territory. What does it mean to be associated “directly or indirectly” with misleading information? Not only do we agree as GPA members to not provide misleading information in our own communications, we also agree if we become aware of misleading information provided by others in the course of our work, we have an obligation to seek correction. This may mean we bring the misleading information to the attention of relevant parties, ensure the information is corrected, or step away from the opportunity if the relevant parties choose not to be transparent and make correction.
This can be a very tough situation in which to find oneself. If you are working for an organization who chooses to provide misleading information, you are faced with an ethical dilemma which may require difficult decisions. Do you want to continue working for such an organization? 
Of course, it is important to remain open to learning if the way we understood the information was incorrect. Seek understanding to make sure your judgment of the veracity of the information is correct, to the best of your ability.
One of the most common dilemmas heard is an organization requesting a grant professional to write or manage grants in a way that could be found unethical. This may take a variety of forms. It may be the organization wants to leave out data less supportive of their case for funding. It could be they want to suggest they will provide services they are not equipped to provide. Perhaps the agency wants to withhold information about audit issues or noncompliance findings. Some cases are more clear violations of ethical standards than others. If you find yourself in a situation which you are having difficulty interpreting or may fall into what seems to be a gray area, please contact the GPA Ethics Committee for support. The Committee will review the situation, ask questions, help you clarify, and make suggestions. It can be helpful to have some additional perspectives when addressing a difficult situation. The members of the committee are here to assist you. The collective ethics committee members may not have all the answers, but we do have experience examining ethics issues.

By Jane Howard, Contract and Grant Director, Heartland Family Service, GPA Ethics Committee Chair

GPCI Competency:  6: Knowledge of nationally recognized standards of ethical practice by grant developers.