Assessing Ethical Situations – Part 2 of 3

This week we continue observing Ethics Awareness Month in this second of three posts covering the Ethical Decision-Making

This week we continue observing Ethics Awareness Month in this second of three posts covering the Ethical Decision-Making Tool that is inspired by Janice Gow-Pettey’s (ed.) book Nonprofit Fundraising Strategy: A guide to ethical decision making and regulation for nonprofit organizations.

Last week we covered the first three points of the tool: clarifying the problem, identifying key and competing values, and identifying the key players and stakeholders.

Let’s look at the next elements of the tool:

  • Identify the most plausible alternatives

Creatively list all possible alternatives, even the most “less popular” or “scary” alternatives. This is not the moment to discard anything that may or may not happen.

  • Imagine the potential outcomes

As a group, discuss both short-term and long-term outcomes as well as best-case, worst-case scenarios. Be thoughtful and thorough so you can all have a clear idea of what may be possible fallouts of whatever decision you make.

  • Evaluate the potential outcomes

Taking into consideration all the previous points, consider the positive and negative potential for each outcome. The importance here is to be very frank and realistic with what could happen.

  • Decide on a course of action

Thoughtfully and deliberately define the course of action that takes into consideration everything that you have learned and discussed through this process.

  • Test the decision

When a decision has been made, this step helps ensure that everything has been carefully examined. Consider using the five “C’s” criteria for fundraising:

Consistency: the trust constituents develop in institutions and individuals resulting from a pattern of regular and predictable behaviour.

Coherence: the guiding principles and standards that reflect unity and harmony, which provide a common point of reference.

Continuity: a person’s past or an organization’s history, which provide the ethical backdrop for assessing present and future actions.

Communication: direct and candid conversations with constituents and colleagues, which prevent misunderstandings and create an environment where ideas and decisions can be shared, analyzed, challenged, and sharpened.

Conviction: the basic beliefs contained in the organization’s mission statement.


We’re more than halfway through the Ethical Decision-Making Tool. Please come back next week when we cover what needs to happen after the decision has been made.

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