Categories: Industry Insights

How to Make Ethical Decisions for Your Organization

Published On: Jul 12, 2022By

When you’re faced with a difficult decision, the right answer isn’t always obvious. How do you decide which path to take? Faiza Venzant, the Executive Director of the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration, joined the NAYDO webinar series to share how you can make decisions with confidence and integrity.

Difficult decisions can be made more challenging when factoring in well-meaning volunteers. In her presentation “The Role of Ethics in Volunteer Engagement,” Venzant explains how you can use the core values of volunteer professionals to make ethical decisions. Read on for the highlights from Venzant’s presentation.

“If we want to be seen as leaders, if we want to be valued as professionals, learning the skill and learning the process of ethical decision-making is what our leaders do all the time.” – Faiza Venzant, Executive Director of the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration

What’s in your ethics backpack?

Your choices aren’t made in a vacuum. You bring your personal experience – also known as your ethics backpack – to each decision you make.

Your ethics backpack is made up of three different types of ethics that influence your decision-making perspective:

  1. Personal Ethics: your personal values and principles that are guided by your history, social identities, and lived experience.
  1. Organizational Ethics: a set of principles that govern the behavior of a group of people, such as your organization’s code of conduct.
  1. Professional Ethics: the values that define a foundation of practice in a specific field of activity.

These different types of ethics can overlap when you’re making a decision, but they can also exist in conflict with each other, causing an ethical dilemma.

What are your professional core values?

When you’re facing an ethical dilemma, you can turn to your professional values to guide your decision. There are five core values for volunteer engagement professionals:

  1. Citizenship
  1. Respect
  1. Accountability
  1. Fairness
  1. Trust

Revisiting these values with your coworkers and mapping them onto your organization can help you prepare for difficult decisions.

How can you make an ethical decision?

Every ethical dilemma is unique, which makes it hard to choose a completely correct path. Having a standard decision-making process in your toolbelt can help you make the best choice for your situation. Using the best information you have at the time, follow these steps to make an ethical decision:

Step 1: Gather Information

What context do you have for the situation? Gather as many facts and perspectives as you can to inform your future decision.

Step 2: Identify the Conflict

Which values or principles are in conflict? Identify which contents of your ethics backpack are in play.

Step 3: Explore Options

Which choices can you make? Explore each available choice to anticipate who will be affected and what consequences may arise.

Step 4: Decide and Test

Which path will you choose, and which consequences will you face? Think through the legal, social, cultural, and organizational implications of your decision.

Step 5: Act

Follow through with your decision, acting with confidence and professionalism.

Following a standard process can help you get a deeper understanding of the situation and navigate your biases. Pausing to walk through the steps on your own allows you to explore different decisions before acting, reducing your potential for harm.

To learn more about ethical decision-making and see the process in action with a case study, be sure to view the full webinar below:

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