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Charities and Moral Leadership

Charities and Moral Leadership

Posted By: FIA
On: Thu 13 February 2014

Do charities have a responsibility for moral leadership beyond their mission?

For example, should a cancer charity make sure it uses sustainable paper stock, or a mental health organisation refuse a donation from a cigarette company?

A selection of our FIA Conference 2014 experts gave us their passionate responses:

Brain Holmes, FIA Chairman

Moral leadership is an important motivation in philanthropy; it’s the desire to make the world a better place.  The not for profit sector should be, and generally is, setting a standard in this area. It lies at the heart of every organisation’s ethos to make a significant and sustainable difference.

Dr Wendy Scaife, Senior Research Fellow, Australia Centre for Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies QUT

The short answer is ‘yes’.  Our sector is special and it’s most worthy entities exude integrity and non-profit culture from every organisational pore.  They live their beliefs in a better community.  One of my most salutary experiences on joining the non-profit sector was watching how staff were treated in a good organisation – even if they were not the right fit.  They were managed honestly in ways that upheld their dignity, came from a position of compassion and ensured their continued volunteer support of the charity even if it had dispensed with their professional services.  Respect for people, community, fairness and what is right are at the core of our organisations – or should be.  We win trust because of this level of integrity and should be ever striving to be extraordinary entities.  Is this easy?  No!  Can a pragmatic outlook exist alongside a moral one?  Often it can with the right thought and debate around the issues – which means ultimately the right leadership.  We have an interesting example in our foundation cousins right now many of whom are exploring impact investing – which has many meanings – but I refer to the practice of foundations putting capital from their corpus into enterprises that generate social good – even if the financial ROI may be less than an alternate investment.  Doing what is right rather than doing what is easy is a strength of our sector.

Stephen Mally, International Principal Consultant, Blackbaud

Every organisation has a responsibility to demonstrate moral leadership.  Why should a charity expect a corporation to set the moral standard if, in fact, the charity is not also leading by example?  In the end, isn’t it sort of practice what we preach?!

Jolene Molloy, Gift in Wills Manager, Save the Children Australia

I think they do as far as they are able to.  If it means the not for profit can’t access the funding required or provide services that are needed then maybe it should restrict their moral leadership to their mission.

Howard Ralley

You don’t leave your ethics at the front door when you walk into work each morning.  Every human being on this planet has the responsibility for moral leadership; regardless of where they work or what they do.  Everyone, except one guy called Tony.  No one likes Tony.  Not even Tony.

Do you agree? Moral leadership lies at the heart of our sector don’t you think?

We would love to know if you agree with our experts? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page:

What do you think?





I believe that charities have a wonderful opportunity to set standards and examples for moral leadership beyond their mission amongst the rest of our community. A profit-making business should have no less regard for degrading our natural environment, implementing sound occupational health and safety standards and providing a fair and productive place of employment. As Brian says, philanthropy is about making the world a better place and a workplace and organisational moral code of practice would be a natural extension from carrying out the core mission to demonstrate how we can live sustainably in a fair and just society. Open for interpretation? Yes, but a good discussion to be had.

Personal responsibility is what we should all be measuring: what are our inputs/what are our our outputs... live simply so that others can simply live?

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