The policies included in every nonprofit’s Code of Ethics will vary, but one rule remains constant: A conflict of interest policy.
A nonprofit must not allow any outside financial interest, or competing personal interest to influence the decisions of the organization. This is not only the ethical thing to do, but it will also spare you any embarrassing press coverage. Yet deciding what actually constitutes conflict of interest can be a little vague.
According to Howard Berman in “Making a Difference,” the appearance of conflict of interest can be as serious as an actual conflict of interest. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid any situation that could be viewed as such. Berman listed four examples of situations that are conflict of interest:
- A business dinner at a restaurant the daughter of the CEO owns counts as a conflict of interest, even if the prices are similar to other restaurants in the area.
- A co-worker’s son was just hired for a job in your department. A conflict of interest may exist if the co-worker is directly supervising his or her son.
- You are a claims examiner in need of extra income, and the opportunity arises to work part-time for a physician’s office, doing medical billing. This is considered conflict of interest because you may be put in a position to pay claims that you submitted from that part-time job.
- Prior to joining the nonprofit, you worked as a health insurance consultant for many years. If the nonprofit you work at does work in this field, you will no longer be able to do consulting work.