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Update: Enlivening the Ethics Discussion

Ethics survey reveals insights and epiphanies for further exploration

The Ethics Resources Committee of the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter thanks all respondents who participated in the recent survey on ethics that was conducted late in 2012. Nearly 200 senior nonprofit professionals, representing all positions and areas of the sector, took part in the survey and provided rich content for analysis.

Some of the most noteworthy early discoveries are as follows:

  • Seventy percent of respondents have faced an ethical dilemma that compromised their organization.
  • Fifty-one percent were related to their board, while 33 percent were supervisor-related.
  • Thirty-nine percent of these ethical situations were related to financial and/or fiduciary matters, and 37 percent were related to fundraising.

Another important discovery involves methods for addressing and resolving ethical situations. Largely, people are more comfortable taking up ethical issues with those junior to them. There also appears to be concern around job-related repercussions in addressing certain ethical concerns.

The Ethics Resources Committee is now beginning to analyze the data to understand what professionals are experiencing, determine issues that are most important to AFP members and how to provide them with the most meaningful support.  For example, we are finding that people want and need other professionals to talk with, share experiences and work through solutions.

Whether it is the charitable sector, government or the private sector, ethical considerations are coming up as a major topic of conversation today. Experts such as Patricia Peel, MBA, ethics professor in the Business Studies Program at Guelph Humber University, says it began rising out of several high profile breaches of ethics in the corporate sector such as the Enron case and the Wall Street sub-prime debacle. Ethics is like a thermometer that measures the temperature of matters such as transparency and integrity—ultimately letting you know if you can put your trust in someone or something.

Trust is essential as a measure of doing business with a company, electing your next politician or donating to a charity. In fact, ethics experts will tell you that trust is the basis of a successful economy or company, government or charity.

In discussing ethics, and developing our understanding of ethics, our aim is to:

  • Make best practice decisions.
  • Know what questions to ask in the first place.
  • Create an ethical ethos in your organization that inspires volunteers and staff.

Stay tuned for more details arising out of the ethics survey, followed by relevant subject matter articles.

In the meantime, expand your ethical resources through the Ethics portal on AFP’s website. There you’ll find everything from an Ethics FAQ that helps to provide a self-governed process for addressing ethical concerns to the complimentary Code of Ethics in Canada, and more. You should also take some time to assess your individual ethical performance and strengthen your ethical practices through the AFP Ethics Assessment Inventory. This tool allows association members to examine the alignment between their personal ethical performance, that of the organizations in which they work and that of their peers within AFP.

For more information, contact Valerie Campbell at

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