February 03, 2022

POV: Leading for the Greater Good

Often times in Nonprofit Land passion collides with the day-to-day functionality of running small businesses (aka nonprofits of all types). When that collision happens we generally find ourselves in uncharted territory, which is common, because many of us land in the nonprofit sector out of a gravitational pull to give back instead of having been trained in nonprofit management and leadership.

Our nonprofit truth is that we are not just organizations serving missions, we are organizations that also have a responsibility to do our work ethically and appropriately. Sometimes that delineation is clear and other times it is not. With our complex leadership structure – a staff that is paid to do the work and a volunteer board that provides guidance and governance – there is bound to be some confusion on what is allowed, appropriate, and really a ‘thing’ in nonprofit management and governance.  

The silver lining to all that confusion is that UNA offers a Standards of Ethics for nonprofits to abide by, reference, and adopt.  

Here are some sample statements that are part of the Standards of Ethics:  

  • Our Mission statement is developed, defined, and formally approved by our Board of Directors. 
  • Our Board approves our organization’s annual budget, insurance coverage, and choice of auditor. 
  • Our nonprofit has written financial policies governing: asset investment, internal controls, purchasing/vendor practices, signing authority; and other policies as required. 
  • Roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated as to which individuals are authorized to communicate publically on behalf of our nonprofit.  
  • Performance goals for staff reflect supervisor input. Goals reflect strategic and operating plan objectives and clearly defined performance metrics are established and tracked accordingly.  
  • When hiring and considering candidates, we refrain from requiring candidates to disclose prior salary history.  
  • Our nonprofit’s leadership holds itself accountable to identify gaps in programs and policies with respect to race, equity, diversity, and inclusion.  

Each year our nonprofit members are asked to present the Standards of Ethics to their boards and leadership staff to examine each of the 10 areas. During this process nonprofits can affirm if they meet each Standard and make note where they have not yet met the Standard. An important component about these Standards of Ethics is that this is not a Pass or Fail initiative. UNA is not in the business of revoking membership for those that aren’t achieving all the items in the Standards of Ethics. Instead we want to provide space during leadership and board meetings for conversations about what is in place and what is not so that an action plan for 100% adoption of the Standards can be put in motion.  

Nonprofit Land is a wonderful place to exist in and is also a place where so much inspiration is born. It is my hope that the Standards of Ethics are used as a launching tool for you and your organization. With better clarity of our obligations we can better serve our communities. And no one should be forced to do all of this work alone or without support. So in that vein, Team UNA is here to be supportive along this journey of adopting the Standards of Ethics at your organization. Reach out if there are questions!