Nonprofit Riches and Ethics

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I feel like I have been immersed lately in stories about organizational oversights and am reminded that morality requires foresight. In other words, if you don’t recognize the possible consequences of an action taken or not taken, you may be putting important things, relationships, and people at risk.

For instance, an organization of my acquaintance recently found itself significantly richer than it had reason to be–by millions. No one thought to investigate internally even as their reserves grew and grew and grew. Finally the source of the funds caught the error–over billing—and is in the process of holding the organization to account for the money. A suit has been filed by another involved party, seeking damages. The organization will also clearly be held to account in other ways because this is not the first management oversight issue to surface from this player. We always pay for this kind of snafu dearly in, for instance, misdirected energy and attention of board and staff, loss of the confidence of partners, and (hopefully) disappointment in ourselves.

The Nonprofit Ethicist, whose latest column can be read here, is one way to learn from the mistakes of others. He also stands ready as always to help you with any ethical questions, large or small, that you may have about your own organization. Simply state your question at whatever length here.

He will answer you confidentially within days and we will work with you, if we print the exchange in the Nonprofit Quarterly, to ensure that your identity is not discernable.