The YWCA of the City of New York’s (“YW”) reputation for fairness, honesty and integrity has been built through the commitment of its employees, Boards of Directors and volunteers for over 150 years. While new competition, technology and globalization are constantly creating fast-paced change across the world, the one element that remains constant is the YW’s commitment to its stakeholders — our donors, employees, volunteers, the people who we serve and the communities in which we work. As change brings new opportunities, it also brings challenges — challenges where one must distinguish between right and wrong, what is a conflict of interest and what is not, and what is an ethical or unethical decision. Each of us uses our best judgment to arrive at the most appropriate conclusion. However, there are times when the answer isn’t always clear, and we need guidance in making the right decision.
This Code of Ethics is intended to provide guidance to both the employees of the YW as well as the members of its Board of Directors. It details both ethical and legal obligations to stakeholders and should assist in making sound decisions in daily activities in conjunction with other policies and practices of the YW. The principles outlined here are very important, and all of us must act, and must also be seen by our stakeholders to be acting, in accordance with these principles.
This Code of Ethics does not cover every situation that we will encounter. If in doubt about what to do in a particular situation, you should seek assistance before continuing by discussing the matter with your manager or contacting the appropriate resource person for support. In some cases, issues may be referred to legal counsel, external auditors or the Board of Directors.
1. Personal and Professional Integrity
The YW employees and members of the Board of Directors act with honesty, integrity, commitment and openness in their dealings as representatives of the organization. Our organization promotes a working environment that values respect, fairness and integrity.
• The YW develops and encourages the practice of high standards of personal and professional conduct;
• Our employees exemplify a professional level of courtesy, respect and objectivity when participating in YW activities;
• The YW designs and maintains work environments that protect the health and safety of its employees, volunteers, and constituents;
• Confidential information acquired in the course of work by YW employees and Board members is not used for anyone’s personal advantage;
• YW resources and contributions received are used exclusively in pursuit of the organization’s mission and will not be used for the personal advantage of vendors, Board members, employees or volunteers;
• The YW encourages each individual on its staff to affirm, through acts of personal giving in proportion to each person’s own capabilities, a commitment to charity and philanthropy.
Our organization has an active governing body, the Board of Directors, which is responsible for setting our strategic direction, and overseeing the finances, operations and significant policies of the organization. This governing body:
• Ensures that all directors understand and fulfill their governance duties acting for the benefit of the organization and its public purpose;
• Ensures that the organization conducts all transactions and dealings with integrity and honesty;
• Ensures that all directors have the requisite skills and experience to carry out their duties;
• Provides credible and effective oversight to the organization’s work;
• Complies with applicable federal, state and local laws, regulations, and fiduciary responsibilities;
• Has a conflict of interest policy to ensure that any conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof are avoided or appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal or other means;
• Is responsible for monitoring the performance of the Chief Executive Officer;
• Respects the confidentiality of sensitive information about our donors, constituents, and employees;
• Ensures that the organization promotes working relationships among Directors, employees, volunteers, and program beneficiaries that are based on mutual respect, fairness and openness;
• Ensures that the organization is fair and inclusive in its hiring and promotion policies for all employees and volunteer positions;
• Ensures that important organization policies are in writing, clearly articulated and officially adopted;
• Ensures that the organization’s resources are responsibly and prudently managed; and
• Ensures that the organization has the capacity to carry out its programs effectively.
3. Legal Compliance
The YW is knowledgeable of, and complies with, the spirit as well as the letter of all laws, regulations and applicable international conventions.
4. Responsible Stewardship
The YW applies its funds appropriately and manages its funds responsibly and prudently. To that end:
• The strongest priority for our funds is to spend them on programs and activities in pursuance of our mission;
• The YW maintains effective accounting systems, internal controls, competent employees, reporting procedures and other resources and practices that are critical to professional management and accountability;
• The YW ensures that donations are used as was promised during solicitations and in the manner intended and expected by the donors;
• The organization compensates employees, and any others who may receive compensation, reasonably, appropriately, and within the limits of common practice;
• The YW identifies and pursues possibilities to minimize fundraising costs, recognizing the variety of factors that affect fundraising costs;
• The organization ensures that spending practices and policies are fair, reasonable and appropriate to fulfill the mission of the organization;
• The YW ensures that financial reports are accurate and complete in all material respects; and
• YW financial statements are regularly submitted for independent audit or review, the results of which are available to the public.
5. Openness and Disclosure
The YW provides comprehensive information to the public by:
• Responding in a timely manner to reasonable requests for information and generally providing copies of our latest IRS Forms 990 and 1023;
• Ensuring that information about our organization is accurate and honestly reflects our policies and practices;
• Posting basic informational data about the organization on our Web site or making it otherwise available to the public;
• Ensuring that financial, organizational and program reports are complete and accurate in all material respects;
• Promptly and fully disclosing, reviewing and taking appropriate actions with regard to any situation that results in a perceived or actual conflict of interest; and
• Promptly and fully disclosing, and taking appropriate actions to resolve, any situations in which we discover perceived or actual violations of this Code of Ethics. In addition to providing information in an open manner, the YW is open to receiving information about itself.
• The YW provides a mechanism by which anyone may provide information pertaining to ethical matters, or make suggestions for organizational improvements, without fear of retaliation or retribution; and
• The YW provides a mechanism by which anyone may provide information pertaining to possibly illegal activities being conducted by or in association with its employees, Board members or volunteers, and the organization will promptly and thoroughly investigate the report and take appropriate actions in cooperation with law enforcement authorities.
6. Program Quality and Evaluation
The YW is committed to organizational effectiveness and the continuous improvement of its programs. To that end:
• Programs and activities are designed to make them responsive to the needs of our constituencies;
• The YW is committed to high standards of excellence and quality for the services and products we provide to constituents;
• Our organization regularly reviews program effectiveness and incorporates lessons learned into future programs; and
• At least once per year, our organization reviews its internal compliance with this Code of Ethics, and the Board receives a report with regard to the outcome of such internal review as well as the number, type and disposition of any complaints of donors or prospective donors about matters that are addressed in this Code.
7. Inclusiveness, Diversity, and Respect
The YW has a policy of promoting inclusiveness, diversity, and respect for all people. To that end:
• Our employees, volunteers and Board members reflect cultural diversity and promote respect, tolerance and justice for all people;
• Our organization respects and tolerates diversity of opinions;
• The YW takes meaningful steps to promote inclusiveness in its operations and programs;
• Solicitation materials accurately represent our organization’s policies and practices and reflect the dignity of people we serve in our programs;
• The YW works cooperatively with other charitable organizations and does not disparage or criticize other organizations’ missions, employees, or programs; and
• The YW actively promotes ethical behavior as a responsible partner among peers, in the work environment and in our communities.
The YW is fully accountable for the honest solicitation of charitable funds, the efficient administration of those funds, and the effective use of funds in pursuit of our organization’s mission. With regard to fundraising, the YW:
• Provides truthful and current information in our solicitation communications;
• Does not establish unrealistic donor expectations of what donor gifts will actually accomplish within the limits of our mission and programs;
• Respects the privacy concerns of individual donors and requests to remain anonymous to the extent permitted by law;
• Allows donors the opportunity for their names to be deleted from our mailing lists or mailing lists we may intend to share;
• Will not accept a gift from a donor if this would knowingly place a hardship on the donor or knowingly place the donor’s future well-being in jeopardy;
• Will not accept donations from organizations or individuals in the knowledge that such donations likely were acquired in violation of applicable laws and regulations or otherwise through actions that would be offensive to the YW’s values or in violation of this Code of Ethics;
• Discloses important and relevant information to potential donors;
• Informs the public of our mission, the way donated resources will be used, and our capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes;
• Informs the public about our governance structure;
• Provides donors access to its most recent annual report and financial statements as approved by the Board of Directors;
• Assures donors that their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given;
• If in receipt of funds intended to be used for programs or activities that are not part of the organization’s present or prospective programs, will either return the funds or, if the intent is in accordance with our mission, treat these as restricted funds and channel them in a manner that honors the donor’s intent, after discussing alternate uses with the donor or legal designate, if available;
• Provides donors with an official receipt for income tax purposes for the amount of the donation, and provides donors of non-monetary gifts (or gifts-in-kind) with an official receipt that reflects the fair market value of the gift, all in compliance with applicable law;
• Ensures that information about donations is handled with respect and confidentiality to the extent provided by law;
• Honors requests to limit the frequency of solicitations, to not be solicited by telephone or other technology, and to receive printed material concerning the organization;
• Informs donors whether those seeking donations are volunteers, YW employees, Board members or hired solicitors;
• Does not compensate employees or fund-raising consultants on the basis of a percentage of charitable contributions raised;
• Does not compensate employees or fund-raising consultants directly or indirectly on the basis of finders’ fees (for recruiting donors); and
• Encourages donors to ask questions when making donations and provides prompt, truthful and forthright answers.
Compliance with this Code of Ethics
Day after day, most of us follow the principles in this Code of Ethics and other policies of the YW and demonstrate a high level of professional behavior. Unfortunately, there are rare occasions when there is a violation of the Code or other policies. To uphold our commitments to our stakeholders, the YW must act to protect its image and reputation and avoid possible legal penalties. If there is a violation, disciplinary action may be required.
Any violation of the YW’s policies, this Code of Ethics, or applicable laws and regulations, may influence an employee’s performance assessment and could result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice, in addition to civil, criminal or regulatory action. Similarly, violations by a Board member could result in removal from the Board.
Employees and Board members also have an obligation to notify the YW as soon as possible if they are charged with or convicted of theft, fraud or any other criminal offence involving dishonesty.
Our success in upholding our commitments also relies on employees or Board members reporting facts and incidents which may involve a breach of these principles or other policies of the YW by them, other employees or Board members, or third parties acting on behalf of the YW, to their manager, the Chief Executive Officer or to the Chair of the Board of Directors, as appropriate. Employees and Board members are prohibited from obstructing, delaying or preventing an investigation into a reported breach.
Any report of concern about conduct that may contravene the Code or other policies will be treated confidentially to the extent possible and in a manner consistent with the YWCA’s responsibility to address the issue raised. No one may retaliate or take adverse employment action against another employee who in good faith reports an actual or apparent contravention of the Code or other policies, or provides information or assistance for an investigation.