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Ethics and Me

Ethics seem to be a hot topic right now. If one searches “ethics” on the internet, the following definition appears: “Moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.” 

It is also a branch of philosophy which addresses the systemization of the concepts of right and wrong conduct (Oxford Dictionaries, Bing Translator). Perhaps current events are bringing questions about ethical decision-making to the forefront.

Most of us are concerned with ethics because we want to know – how do I determine the right response or action in this situation? Is my judgment sound and justifiable? As Grant Professionals and members of GPA, we have a Code of Ethics designed to help us understand the implications of certain situations and decisions. Nevertheless, we sometimes find ourselves in challenging situations where it is necessary to re-examine the motives and possible impact of the approaches we take to writing or managing grants. It is helpful to be familiar with the principles of our Code of Ethics, for reference when we are unsure of the best course of action.

If you are new to GPA or haven't looked at the ethics materials on the GPA website for a while, you can follow this link,

There you will find the Code of Ethics, some Frequently Asked Questions, and information about submitting a question, concern, or complaint. GPA has an Ethics Committee which reviews the materials about ethics and updates them regularly, in response to the concerns that are submitted each year. If you have questions about an ethical dilemma, or just want to know more, you can send a query.

If you belong to a local chapter of GPA, speak to your chapter leadership about having an ethics discussion. You may learn some helpful information and increase your confidence in understanding the ethical principles of GPA. My chapter, GPA Nebraska, is holding such a discussion in June. We are also calling on some of our colleagues from other local organizations concerned with ethics to broaden the discussion.

Having a Code of Ethics for reference in difficult situations can be valuable. There are many important questions that Grant Professionals face. Donors and Grantors want to work with programs and providers that help make a positive impact on the communities and people they seek to serve. These partnerships and relationships deserve careful stewardship, and each of us is ultimately responsible to make decisions in our own circles of influence. How many of us have been asked to be somewhat vague about the shortcomings of an organization or their ability to meet the requirements of a grant or contract? Have we ever promised more than can be delivered? 

I encourage members of GPA and other interested professionals to ask questions and make time to think about ethics. Ponder some of the choices made in the past and reflect on what influenced those decisions, as well as what, if anything, could have been done or thought about differently. Develop your personal tools for ethical decisions in realistic scenarios. It is an ongoing exercise. I personally am grateful for the GPA Code of Ethics, and my involvement in the Ethics Committee. It is a foundation that supports my professional life, and helps me sleep better at night!

What questions do you have for the Ethics Committee?

Jane Howard, GPC is the Grant and Contract Coordinator for Heartland Family Service in Omaha, Nebraska.



By: Arthur Davis
On: 05/22/2018 17:03:00
Hi Jane, You may have seen my post on commission-based grant writing at One interesting ethics question would be in working with capital campaigns and the sources of reported income. The foundation funders like to see individual contributions of course. I know, however, that there are organizations stating they achieved individual fundraising goals, when really the money came out of reserves. The logic is that these were individual contributions, so we met the goal. This isn't stated in the funder reports because other nonprofits are approaching it the same way. The danger if "everyone else" is reporting success, and you report reserve spending, then maybe you look less successful. I am not thinking about challenge matches, but just about the capital campaign overall. I'm not sure it's a red line, but it seems like a gray area, and I'd be interested to learn more.
By: Jane Howard
On: 05/25/2018 10:59:01
Hello! That is an interesting discussion. I will share it with the Ethics Committee and we can look at adding an FAQ regarding how donations and reserve funding are represented in reports. I would like to get input from others. Thank you!

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