Social Sector Ethics
Concern for others. The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics imagines a world where such concern drives all important decisions. Many nonprofit organizations, volunteers, foundations, philanthropists, consultants and advisors share this vision as an aspect of the work they do in the social sector.
The social sector is a fascinating realm. Nonprofit organizations are complex animals by design, with a “triple bottom line”: traditional performance measures, returns to social goods, and care for the environment. Staff and volunteers are blended in management and governance roles. As Evelyn Brody writes in the Fordham Law Review, “Board members, in both business and nonprofit corporations, are part-timers, often volunteers, serving for a variety of altruistic, social, and even selfish reasons, and (for the outside directors) not likely to be technically skilled in the business of the enterprise.” Donors give money for investment and distribution, and expect transparency to match their generosity. Philanthropists and foundations have their own goals they work to achieve within the sector.
In this complex environment, organizations with ethical cultures have the best chance to build trust and prosper long term. We enter our work in social sector ethics with the aim of helping the organizations that serve it fulfill their missions and thrive.
Social Sector Ethics Cases
The Giving Code
Selected Social Sector Articles
Ethics in the Social Sector
Top issues for nonprofits include mission, governance, and tax status.
What to do about the "prosperity paradox"
The Ethics Center's decision-making framework can help us build empathy.
10 things to tell your board
A brief guide to matters that should be disclosed to nonprofit boards.