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Ethics and Grant Writing. Grant Writer’s Network of Greater Houston and the United Way of Greater Houston Wednesday, June 11, 2008 Mary Ann Amelang, M.A.,CFRE Institutional Advancement Officer Lee College, Baytown, Texas. Ethics and Grant Writing Agenda.

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Ethics and Grant Writing

Grant Writer’s Network of Greater Houston and the United Way of Greater Houston

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mary Ann Amelang, M.A.,CFRE

Institutional Advancement Officer

Lee College, Baytown, Texas

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Ethics and Grant Writing Agenda

8:30 to 8:45 Welcome, Introductions, Housekeeping

8:45 to 9:15 What are Ethics? Grant Writers’ Codes of Ethics

9:15 to 10:00 Activity – Ethical Situations

10:00 to 10:15 Report Out

10:15 to 10:30 Break!

10:30 to 11:15 Activity – Ethical Situations II

11:15 to 11:30 Report Out

11:30 to 11:45 Ethical Guidelines

11:45 to 12:00 Questions

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What are ethics?

  • A major branch of philosophy

  • A study of values

  • An analysis of concepts such as right and wrong, and personal responsibility

  • Applied ethics attempts to go past philosophy to apply “theoretical” ethics to real world dilemmas.

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Applied Ethics

  • Applied ethics includes business ethics and the various “codes of ethics” such as those of AFP and AAGP (American Association of Grant Professionals).

  • Applied ethics often result in disagreements over the way principles should be applied.

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Codes of Ethics

  • AAGP’s Code of Ethics can be found at:

  • Highlights include standards of professional practice, professional obligations, solicitation and use of funds, compensation and other topics.

  • AFP has the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.

  • American Grant Writers Association has Professional Ethics and Standards that are very similar to AAGP’s

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Codes of Ethics Highlights

  • Avoid conflicts of interest. Examples?

  • Don’t inflate your competence or experience to get a job or contract.

  • Don’t disclose confidential information about your employer or client.

  • Don’t work on a percentage basis.

  • Ensure that the facts and information presented are accurate to the best of your knowledge.

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Real Life

  • An organization does not engage in ethical behavior, individuals who work there do.

  • Codes of Ethics cannot address all real life situations that grant writers face each day.

  • One branch of ethics holds that the consequences of an action form the basis for the moral judgment of that action, or the words of Machiavelli, “the ends always justify the means.”

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Real Life

  • What we might find when we write grants is sometimes the ethical choice is not always clear.

  • There are gray issues/gray zones where the line between right and wrong is blurred.

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Real Life SituationsReal Life Ethical Dilemmas

  • Break into groups of 5.

  • Your group will choose a recorder and reporter.

  • You have 45 minutes to read and discuss the first five scenarios as a group, and answer the questions.

  • Report out.

  • Note: There are no right or wrong answers.

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Guidelines for Ethical Dilemmas

  • Codes of ethics address individual, professional behavior, such as plagiarism and honesty.

  • In some of the situations faced by grant writers, organizational dynamics often are to blame for ethical dilemmas, rather than the writer’s individual behavior.

  • What do you do if you are asked to write something or change something that might compromise your personal or professional ethics?

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When in doubt, I follow Dr. Wright Lassiter’s guidelines:

  • Let the laws be your guide, and ignorance of the law is no excuse!

  • Let your college’s rules and procedures be your guide.

  • Let shared values, such as those of AAGP or AFP, be your guide.

  • Let your conscience be your guide. If something feels wrong, 9 times out of 10 it is wrong!

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More guidelines

  • Let your promises be your guide.

  • Let your mentors and heroes be your guide. Find ethical people and follow their lead.

  • Think before you act. Ask yourself – Will I feel guilt-free if I do this? Would I feel OK if someone did this to me or my organization?

  • Know what cannot be compromised. Learn how to say no.

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More guidelines

  • When in doubt, ASK! Ask the business office, your supervisor, whoever might clarify a situation involving possible ethical consequences.

  • Get help managing “competing rights.”

  • If there is more than one right way, choose the “most right.”

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What are some common causes of unethical behavior?

  • Speed – not having enough time, so data and other facts are sometimes “made up.”

  • Greed – you want more funds for your organization and in your “win” column, so the truth gets stretched.

  • Laziness – your don’t want to do the hard work involved in gathering the real data, etc.

  • Haziness – you or the organization do not have clear guidelines and procedures to avoid ethical conflict.

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What are possible consequences of unethical behavior?

  • Loss of your job or your client.

  • Loss of grants funds that are critical to the operation of your organization or your client.

  • Loss of your reputation and damage to the reputation of your client or organization

  • Incarceration.

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Final thoughts

  • If you find yourself in a questionable situation, document everything.

  • Pick your battles, but stick by your guns if you feel that the situation could result in a legal problem for you, your co-workers, or your employer.

  • Tell the truth. No grant award is worth compromising your personal integrity and your reputation.

  • If your workplace does not have a culture of trust and honesty, it might be time to post your resume on

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Mary Ann Amelang


[email protected]