NPO and grantmaker ethics

Wednesday, 17 September, 2003 - 23:00

One of the most important issues, which came out of Thusanang's first focus group discussion in August 2003, and which emerges in practically all NPO/grantmaker conferences, workshops and so on, is th

One of the most important issues, which came out of Thusanang's first focus group discussion in August 2003, and which emerges in practically all NPO/grantmaker conferences, workshops and so on, is the question of NPO and grantmaker ethics. What principles, norms, and standards should drive these sectors, internally and in interacting with one another? It is about governance, management, accountability, transparency, partnerships.

Misperceptions between the two sectors seem to be as rife as ever, and often degenerate into a bit of a finger pointing exercise. In plain English, NPOs typically complain about grantmakers being erratic, arrogant, disinterested and unreasonable, and grantmakers often lament that NPOs are inefficient, disorganised, opportunistic and ... unreasonable. Not exactly the best point of departure for constructive dialogue.


Being constructive is often premised on having the courage to take a long hard look at oneself in the mirror and acknowledge weaknesses as well as strengths. Currently a number of initiatives, surveys and research on ethics are taking shape, but these often appear to be phrased as "new". There are in fact already some codes of conduct out there, which took a lot of effort and determination to put together. Sure, most of them have gathered a bit of dust, but we believe they still have a lot to offer at least as points of departure. So, the soul searching could start here:


For NPOs:



For Grantmakers:



  • SANGOCO and the Southern African Grantmakers Association (SAGA): Guidelines for Good Practice for International Funding Agencies and Foundations (1998) (featured in INTERFUND's Development Update, Vol 2, no 1, 1998: "Does development have to be democratic? Community, accountability and the voluntary sector in South Africa"). These guidelines incorporate SAGA's Guidelines for Good Grantmaking from 1997.
  • Following its conference and AGM in September 2003, SAGA released a new draft Code of Practice for SAGA members.

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