The dialogue on conflicts of interest shows no signs of abating, and we found this article in Blue Avocado — a magazine of American non-profits — particularly enlightening.
While the Academy is not a non-profit, these guidelines are still relevant. Besides, the Academy’s Foundation is a non-profit, and it currently has some ties that we find worrisome (i.e.: grants from Elanco and PepsiCo).
* “Most nonprofit discussions about conflicts of interest are similar to those in the for-profit sector: they focus on financial benefit to board members or staff to the detriment of the nonprofit organization. The classic examples: the nonprofit buys something unnecessary or overpriced from a board member’s business, or the nonprofit hires an unqualified, overpaid family member of the executive director. But nonprofit conflicts of interest are often more subtle, more multi-dimensional, and more unexpected than these classic examples.”
* “Conflicts of loyalties: Attorney Evelyn Brody usefully describes such situations as ones with “dual loyalty” or “conflict of loyalties” rather than conflicts of interest. She also notes its presence where funders or representatives of government or foundations are on boards: often precisely for the purpose of reporting back to their institutions on what’s going on. These kinds of dual loyalty situations are unrelated to personal financial gain, but nonetheless raise difficult questions. As a result, relying on narrowly-defined financial conflict guidelines may inadvertently send the wrong message: that personal financial gain is the only kind of conflict of interest.”
* “Rather than keep these statements confidential to the board chair and the executive director (which is a common practice), put the information into the roster of board members. Doing so will encourage others to turn such relationships into benefits for the organization, as well as knowing that the potential for conflict exists in certain circumstances.”
* “Establish disclosure as a normal practice. Board members should find it customary for someone to announce, for example, “I have started to date the Clinic Director and, as a result, feel that I must resign from the board.” In another situation a board president might say, “This next agenda item relates to joining a collaboration with other children’s agencies. I’m going to ask board members who are also on one of these other boards to identify themselves and participate in the discussion, but I will excuse them from the room for part of the discussion and for the vote.” Such disclosures should be recorded in the meeting’s minutes.”
* “Perhaps even more than written policies, board and staff leadership must establish by example and attitude an atmosphere of personal integrity. Some situations may need only a brief, informal comment to maintain that climate (example: “I know it’s only $24 but it’s important to keep our finances straight”). In others, a decision may be delayed because of the need to ensure that the decision has been made in the organization’s best interests. Each of us, by our daily words and actions, contributes to a culture of integrity and responsibility.”