Independent Sector strongly recommends that all nonprofits and foundations develop a statement of values and code of ethics to help guide their policies, decision making and operations. Here is a checklist to help your organization begin the process.
Decide whom you think should be involved in the process. Be sure to include staff and the board. Other important stakeholders include major donors, volunteers and program beneficiaries, each of whom will bring different and valuable perspectives.
Phase one: Focus your first efforts on developing a statement of values, which will later serve as the foundation for a code of ethics:
Phase two: Using the organization's statement of values as a foundation, now it's time to turn your attention to developing a code of ethics describing how you put those values into practice. Your resulting document will be a set of broad principles, not a detailed set of operational practices.
- Personal and professional integrity
- Conflict of interest
- Legal compliance
- Responsible stewardship of resources and financial oversight
- Openness and disclosure
- Program evaluation
- Inclusiveness and diversity
- Integrity in fundraising and/or grantmaking (depending on the type of organization.)
- Other areas of particular importance to your organization and field of interest
Examples for Your Use
Independent Sector has developed a model Statement of Values and Code of Ethics for your use, as well as a Compendium of Standards, Codes, and Principles of Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations where more than 100 statements are compiled.
Statement of Values: An expression of what an organization believes in.
Code of Ethics: A statement of how you put your values into practice.
Independent Sector Convenes National Panel on Nonprofit Sector...10/12/04
Improving Practice and Self Regulation
Share Your Feedback
Please share your experiences with us, so we may share lessons learned with other members. Contact us at ethics@IndependentSector.org.
IS wishes to thank the Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations (CANPO) for permission to draw from its excellent publication, Conducting an Ethics Audit: A Checklist for Nonprofits. More information is available at www.canpo.org.