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Ethics and the Hydra

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Most of us have seen board members separate their collective, decision-making role on the board from their individual, working role in other volunteer capacities. And we know that board members who fail to make or remember the distinction can be very problematic. The level of potential ethical dilemmas can escalate greatly in organizations where board members play many related external roles as well.

Volunteers with some self-interest can be very valuable to an organization. If the success of the organization is important to your hopes and/or your business, you may be passionate about the mission and willing to work hard as a volunteer. Unfortunately, such multi-faceted volunteers can also be a Hydra – a many-headed monster – if not guided by ethics. People of personal integrity are needed who are willing to abide by organizational values as well.

This article explores the concepts and issues of ethics and conflict of interest as they affect volunteer service on a nonprofit board of directors.