The Charity Accountant - Creating an Ethical Culture
Over the last few years there has been a lean towards using ethical values and principles to govern professions in the light of financial crashes being caused be unethical behaviour. We are now starting to see the spot light turned on charities as recently there have been some bad examples of poor ethical behaviour.
One issue is people assume that because you are involved in a charity or work or run a charitable organisation that automatically makes you ethical to a certain degree. This is of course true in some cases but what charities lack in general is the organisation wide ethical approach to every aspect of work. As accountants we are taught to approach every client and business partner with a degree of professional scepticism. This is not because we never trust anyone or indeed that are clients and business partners are not trustworthy, it is simply to recognise that no matter how good we think we are at reading peoples character we are never going to know enough to be able to eliminate all doubt.
It’s not enough to just act ethically in one department. Your staff, your volunteers, your trustees and every one in-between need to think and act with a professional mindset.A great way to achieve this is to implement an ethics policy or code. The set of principles below are often referred to as the Nolan Principles or The Seven Principles of Public Life. Using them as the starting blocks to build your ethics policy is a good way to start.
Selflessness Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
Integrity Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
Objectivity In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Accountability Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Openness Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands it.
Honesty Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Leadership Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
Important things to note with implementing an Ethics Policy
- Creating an ethical culture throughout your charity needs to start from the top and be reflected all the way down to volunteers to be effective.
- Making sure all new volunteers and staff are taught to be ethical when they join your organisation is a great way of maintaining your organisations ethical values.
- Being aware of outside threats is key to ensuring your organisation does not accidentally behave unethically.
- Constant reminders for all members are important as it is easy to get into bad habits.
- Last but not least make sure you have clear objectives for implementing an ethics policy.
If you want any help or advice in creating an ethics policy that suits your organisation Chadmin is more than happy to help. As accountants we have ethical principles that we have to abide by and after a while it just becomes common sense. That is essentially the main goal of an ethics policy, to get everyone involved to naturally react in an ethical manor.