Eye on Ethics, June 2018 Newsletter

The Mystery Box

As part of AFP-GLAC’s Eye on Ethics, we present ethical dilemmas from our members and share the solution. Here is a scenario that presented a serious, ethical issue:

“I was working for what I thought was a well-respected nonprofit as their Director of Development. I was trained to tell all individual and foundation donors and prospective donors about our proudest achievement, which was a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant we had won from the Department of Labor. It was an extremely competitive grant, and I believe my organization was either the only recipient or one of a very small number of recipients across the nation.

I sang the praises of our achievements with this amazing grant until one day, when I unexpectedly came upon a box of old dusty files in our director's office. At first, I was excited because I could see the box held our original grant request and all the correspondence between us and Department of Labor about the grant. I had always wanted to learn more about this grant.”

“What I learned for the first time as I read through the files was that the heart of the funded project included plans to open a large thrift shop that would be staffed by domestic violence victims and homeless and runaway youth who needed to learn work skills. Not only had this never come to fruition, but I later learned from co-workers that the organization accepted thrift store donations for years, rented a huge storage space to keep the items, and eventually began dumping the donations meant for its store at unrelated stores such as the local Goodwill in the dead of night.

The organization did let the Department of Labor know they didn't open a thrift store, but they saw no problem with publicizing far and wide their achievement in winning the grant. We were all trained to talk about a small side project the grant also covered that was completed. Meanwhile, the core of the initial proposal was never mentioned to anyone. I was shocked, had further ethical and other issues with them, and did not stay at the organization very long.”