Ethics and Accountability in Family Philanthropy

About this collection: This Content Collection features board discussion papers, articles, sample policies and practices, and webinars on the topic of ethics and accountability in family philanthropy.

A family’s philanthropic values – it’s sense of stewardship, personal commitments and interests of individual family members, and the shared desire to foster charitable impulses in children and future generations – are the foundation of family philanthropy. Articulating and discussing values on a regular basis is part of ethically responsible giving. And ensuring that your grants and gifts are effective in achieving your goals is also an ethical obligation. This Content Collection features board discussion papers, articles, sample policies and practices, and webinars on the topic of ethics and accountability in family philanthropy.

Start Here

Prepare for Ethical Dilemmas on Family Boards

Blog Post
This article was originally published by GMA Foundations and is re-posted here with permission. Many family foundations have taken the time to develop a values statement that guides board behavior and decisions.  While a board may have this deeply-held set of values, the board members might not always agree on…

Paul Ylvisaker: Ethics and Philanthropy

Book Chapter
This chapter is excerpted from “Philanthropy: The High Estate,” part IV of Conscience & Community: The Legacy of Paul Ylvisaker, which was edited by NCFP Founder and President Virginia Esposito and published by Peter Lang Publishing in 1999. Questions addressed in this chapter include: Is there an ethical requirement to…

From the Balcony: Perspectives and Reflections on Trusteeship

“As I see it, there is no other way that as few people can raise the quality of the whole American society as far and as fast as can trustees and directors of our voluntary institutions, using the strength they now have in the positions they now hold.” – Robert…

NCFP Webinars

August 13, 2015

Passing the “Mirror Test”: Ethics and family philanthropy

Your family’s philanthropic values – your sense of stewardship, your personal commitments and interests, and your desire to foster charitable impulses in your children and future generations – are the foundation of your family’s philanthropy.  Articulating and discussing values on a regular basis is part of ethically responsible giving. And…
November 10, 2011

Ethics in family philanthropy: Right vs. right decision-making

Ethical issues affect every facet of a family’s philanthropy from its structure and mission to its investment, grantmaking strategies, and perhaps most importantly, governance structure. The role of ethics and values is so integral to how families define and carryout their missions, and the expectations for ethical behavior among philanthropists…
February 10, 2011

The Science and Art of Family Giving

The drive for better data, metrics, and measurement is increasingly looked to as the Holy Grail for philanthropists interested in maximizing the effectiveness of their giving. But the values, ethics, and personal beliefs of families and donors – as well as existing relationships, family dynamics, local commitments, and commitments to…
March 11, 2010

The Right Way to Handle Conflicts of Interest

National Center research shows that only about half of family foundations have a conflict of interest policy. Yet conflicts often arise if, for example, a board or staff member volunteers for or serves on the board of a nonprofit that seeks funds from the foundation. Two of our speakers, Diana…

Voices from the Field

Ethics and family philanthropy: Advice from Aristotle

Private property exists, Aristotle asserts, at least in large part to enable us to be generous. If we did not possess things – goods, money, and the right to direct our own labor – then we would not be in a position to choose to give.

What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?

What is a human life worth? You may not want to put a price tag on a it. But if we really had to, most of us would agree that the value of a human life would be in the millions. Consistent with the foundations of our democracy and our…

Sample Policies and Practices

Code of ethics (Hudson Webber Foundation)

The Hudson-Webber Foundation commits to integrity in our actions and responsibility for our decisions and their consequences. We are committed to act honestly, truthfully and with integrity in all our transactions and dealings. We are committed to the appropriate handling of actual or apparent conflicts of interest in our relationships.…

Board Code of Ethics (The Wallace Foundation)

The Board of Directors of The Wallace Foundation is committed to the highest standards of integrity in conducting the affairs of the Foundation. This includes acting at all times in an honest and ethical manner, in compliance with all laws and regulations, and avoiding actual or potential conflicts of interest…

Code of ethics (anonymous sample)

________ Foundation Policies and Procedures Code of Ethics Background In June 2008, the Trustees of the ________ Foundation agreed to be guided by the Council on Foundations’ Stewardship Principles for Family Foundations. These principles, which were closely reviewed one-by-one by the Executive Committee, spelled out best practices in governance, ethics…

Code of ethics (sample)

__________ Foundation, Inc. (the “Organization”) seeks to integrate the personal style and flexibility of a charitable endeavor with the best practices of the nonprofit community. With this goal in mind, the following standards have been adopted to guide the directors, officers, and employees in their conduct of all Organization business.…

Code of Conduct policy sample

____________ Foundation Code of Conduct   1. Preamble To ensure that The _______ Foundation fulfills its mission and pursues its vision in an exemplary manner and in accordance with its beliefs and the highest standards of ethical conduct, the Board of Directors has adopted this Code of Conduct. This Code…