Adopting the Charity Ethical Principles

Back in January, after a year long consultation, NCVO launched the Charity Ethical Principles. The stated goal was that charities must be responsible for creating an inclusive culture and these principles were to be viewed as a benchmark of good practice. A few months on from the initial publication, VANEL has been revisiting the principles and I’m encouraging you to do the same.

These Principles apply to any charity, social enterprise, voluntary or community group or anyone involved with social action. Good and ethical behaviour applies to all, so it is hoped that no-one could object to the underlying purpose of them. Endorsement of the principles is voluntary, but NCVO encourages all charities to reflect them in their work and decision making.

The VANEL board and team have reflected on these principles ourselves and are working to formally adopt them so that we can make a clear endorsement about them on our own website. To do that we need to ensure we are all clear on each of the four principles and that we know how we will meet each part of the principles and apply them.

We are also going to be actively championing the principles across our membership and the wider sector.

The guidance document is short (6 pages) and there are four key Principles:
Put Beneficiaries First
Act with Integrity
Operate Openly
Uphold the Right to be Safe

Although these are not compulsory, we are all encouraged to “Actively consider the principles and how they can be integrated into all our work and decision making”.

So they can be used when designing or starting up a new project, programme or initiative, looked at at times of change or crisis, or can be reflected upon on an ongoing basis.

The Principles might require you to change or document processes or procedures, but none of the principles should be working against what you are trying to achieve or against the high standards we should always be setting ourselves.

Every charitable organisation has always had structures such as the Nolan Principles to guide our work, and we should all have Codes of Conduct or behaviour in place, or safeguarding approaches implemented as appropriate. These new Principles just give a framework to our assessment of this.

So make sure key staff, managers, and your committee or board are all familiar with these new Principles. Decide what they mean to your organisation, do a self-reflection analysis maybe. Decide who is championing this approach for you? An Ethical Voice role perhaps from the board/committee or staff team?

You’ll need to share some level of this approach with all your staff and volunteers. After all, your whole team needs to be acting in the same ethical way. Decide whether or how you’ll review, or report on your ethics. Is this something your board will review regularly? Or will you just ensure they are referred to when undertaking change?

These Principles work alongside other sector Codes such as the Governance Code, Digital Code and the Fundraising Code. They compliment each other.

So download the principles here or read an introduction to them from NCVO here. Take them to your next committee meeting? Set yourself a challenge to be able to publicly endorse them for your work? Decide on how they will apply to you.