Conflicts of Interest: A Threat To Institutional Integrity

Organizations of all kinds — philanthropic, educational, charitable non-profit, and for profit — depend for their success on analyses and decisions that, at all levels — governance, leadership, staff implementation, and external advice — and at all times, are objective and in the best interests of the organization. Nothing undermines the success of an organization more than doubts about its integrity. Witness recent revelations in the corporate sector about manipulation of earnings reports, the timing of stock options, self-aggrandizement, and breaches of confidentiality in the Board room; and, in the non-profit sector, about favoritism, self-dealing, and misappropriation of funds.

Perhaps the greatest threats to the integrity of organizations are conflicts of interest — situations in which the obligations of a board member, executive manager, staff member, or external advisor to an organization conflicts with his/her financial best interests, personal or professional standing, or loyalty to, or affiliation with, another organization.

The following are examples of polices and disclosure forms that address conflicts of interest among foundation board members and staff members, and among individuals providing scientific advice to a variety of organizations.

Conflicts of Interest Among Foundation Directors and Staff

Conflicts of Interest Among Scientific Advisors