Cautionary Tales (Aug 07)

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I was having one of those “ain’t it awful?” conversations with an old friend the other day who is a big advocate of economic justice issues. We were commiserating over the fact that the reserve fund for the nonprofit where he is a board member had lost value through investments in the sub-prime mortgage market. While the organization was not directly overseeing the investment of the fund it raised the issue (in neon) of the need for an investment policy.

They don’t know yet just how much that wake-up call will cost them in cash money and they are chagrined to have been tacitly complicit in an industry that exploited poor people.

The reason why I am sharing this with you is that my friend thought it was important for there to be some greater good that came out of the situation.

Hey, that’s what we are here for! The Nonprofit Quarterly is all about cautionary tales — “Don’t stick your hand in that tiger’s mouth!” “Careful of that quicksand!” We mean to be your early warning system.

The way we do that is by asking you for your stories.

Most of you know that the Nonprofit Ethicist has a regular column in NPQ. Right now, he is at his keyboard, fingers poised, awaiting your questions about any possible ethical lapses that may be occurring in or around your own organization.

Much of the time, as with my friend’s organization, transgressions are not purposeful; we kind of slide backwards into a mess. But by asking the Ethicist about it, we can send out an alarm to others who may be circling the same mess themselves!

So send the Ethicist your questions or simply reply to this e-mail. We will treat them with confidentiality, answering each quickly in private — and you will have final approval rights over what we publish.

Meanwhile, if I don’t talk to you before Labor Day, enjoy the rest of the summer.