4 elements of accountability and ethics

A worthwhile mission clearly stated and effective fundraising are crucial stones upon which a nonprofit foundation rests, but as all-too-many people inside and outside the sector can attest, ethics violations — or even the appearance of ethical lapses — can damage a cause and possibly even destroy an organization.

Speaking during an Association of Fundraising Professional conference, James M. Greenfield of J.M. Greenfield & Associates stressed the importance of accountability and ethics in the nonprofit world. Put simply, accountability and ethics can make or break an organization.

Greenfield said that accountability and ethics can be maintained by keeping sight of the following at all times:

  • Open and full disclosure. First, it’s about attitude. Second, it’s about financial details. Third, it’s about results.
  • Transparency. Public reporting means … going public.
  • Impact reporting. It is more than lists of results. It is about making a difference to the community and telling everyone what the organization did and how it made it happen.
  • Charting impact. This is the board’s role, and board members should ask: 1. What does the organization aim to accomplish? 2. What strategies does the organization use to do that? 3. What capability does the organization have for the tasks? 4. How does the organization know it is making progress? 5. What has been, and what hasn’t been, accomplished so far?