Ethics FAQs

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1) I think that one of my colleagues is not following the GPA Code of Ethics. What do I do next?

The first step is to look at the list of Frequently Asked Questions to see if your question is addressed. If it isn’t or if you need clarification, contact the CEO either by telephone, letter or email with your concerns. A number will be assigned to your inquiry (confidential reporting) and recorded in the Ethics Log Book. The CEO will write a brief summary and forward it to the Ethics committee chair for review by the Grievance Committee. If the complainant wishes to file a complaint, the complaint form can be obtained from the CEO. To keep things consistent and equitable, all complaints must be on the required form.

2) I just received a note from GPA national office telling me that I have been turned in for an ethics violation. What happens next?

The CEO will send you the appropriate forms to respond to the complaint. Once returned, they will be sent to the Ethics committee chair for review by the Grievance Committee to determine if a violation has/has not occurred and if an investigation is warranted.

3) Is it permissible for me to “moonlight” and write grants for other entities?

Yes, provided you get permission from your current employer, do not use or share proprietary information with other entities, and you do not submit competing proposals.

4) As a member of a grant writing team, I have been asked to collect signatures of consortium partners on a memorandum of understanding. I was instructed to “forge” signatures if I could not find the appropriate person. Is this legal?

No. Unless the appropriate person who is to sign the paperwork has given you permission to sign on their behalf, this is in direct violation of local, state, and federal laws. Under no circumstances should an GPA member “forge” the signatures of others.

5) May I use the work of others in my proposal?

You may use the work of others PROVIDED you cite any information or data that is not your original work. Citing the work of others is an expected practice and courtesy. Plagiarism is illegal and is considered a serious breech of ethics by GPA.

6) I’m pretty sure that the information that was provided by the XYZ school district on the academic achievement and poverty levels are not correct. I think they took the data from four years ago and are reporting it without identifying the year. Is it OK if I use that information they provide since they will be responsible for the accuracy of the information?

As the grant writer, if you think/know that the information is incorrect/not current, you should ask the district to confirm the data and insert the proper reference. If they are using data from previous years to make their proposal more compelling, the information being presented is misleading and inaccurate.

7) What happens if a consultant solicits business, is contracted to write a proposal, but doesn’t follow through with anything and just keeps the money?

This violates Sections 1, 5, 6 and 11 of the Code of Ethics. If a member has agreed in writing to provide services, it is unethical for the member not to perform the work and could also result in adverse legal consequences to the member.

8)  I work for a small private preschool, and one of our volunteers recently indicated that there would be an opening in their company that would be perfect for my spouse. I would really like to encourage my spouse to apply, but I don’t want to cross any ethical boundaries. What do I do?

The Code does not prohibit your spouse from working for one of your volunteers. If your volunteer told you about the upcoming announcement, then you should watch for the advertisement and point it out to your spouse. What you should not do is lobby with the volunteer to get your spouse hired!

9) Through my work as a grant writer, I’ve discovered that my employer is interested in purchasing a parcel of land that my wife’s company owns. Purely by accident (I wasn’t really paying attention to which parcel it was), I have become privy to confidential information such as the amount they plan to offer and the maximum amount available. I know that I can’t give this information to anyone outside the agency, but do I need to tell my boss about this?

Yes, you should talk to your boss and explain the situation, making clear the point at which you became aware of the conflict and that you have no intention of revealing any proprietary information. As grant professionals, we are privy to confidential material and must be sure that we do not disclose confidential information to which we have access.

10) A colleague of mine frequently indicates she has received a master’s degree to other professionals and has it listed on her professional resume. However, in private she confided that she did not complete the required thesis within the time frame required. Should I tell my employer?

Yes, only if you have definite proof she did not complete the required work and if you know her misrepresentation has allowed your agency to receive grant funding they might not otherwise have received. The agency could be legally responsible if funding was obtained through misrepresentation.

11) I have been asked to evaluate a grant in an area for which I have no prior expertise. Is it wrong for me to refuse the assignment? Would it be better for me to find an alternative solution for the client before I refuse?

GPA members should be truthful in what their individual capabilities are. If the evaluation or grant writing request is beyond the scope of your education and/or expertise, by all means, it is appropriate to tell the agency and to provide them with an alternative solution such as a more experienced evaluator’s contact information.

12) I am a consultant, and my best client has just told me that they “doctored up” a set of minutes for a meeting that didn’t occur in order to be eligible for a grant. The funds have been awarded already, and I don’t know what to do. On the one hand, I know that what they did was wrong; on the other hand, if I report them (even anonymously) I’m certain I’ll lose them as a client. The person who did this feels really bad about it and she’s afraid she’ll get caught. What do I do?

This is a clear ethical violation and you have an obligation to act. The best option would be to help your client see why she has to contact the grantmaker, even if that means repayment. You also need to state definitively that this behavior is illegal as well as immoral – even for people who feel badly about it afterward.
If the client refuses to come clean, your obligation is to contact the grantmaker confidentially and let them know that you have reason to believe that the proposal contained fraudulent information. They will decide what action to take from there.

13) I am an independent consultant and I’ve recently noticed that one of my occasional clients changes the meaning behind their acronym periodically. I don’t work for them often, so I originally thought I was just mistaken. But, sure enough, I checked, and it’s different!  I talked to them, and they said that they felt it was to their advantage to have a more “religious-sounding name” when they applied to certain grantmakers. They are a faith-based organization, and their legal name is just the acronym. They aren’t very sophisticated, and I feel they did this without any intent to deceive - they haven’t even decided amongst themselves what the acronym means! They were just trying to be clever. When I explained to them that what they were doing wasn’t honest, they were really embarrassed and immediately saw that they should make a decision about the meaning of the acronym and stick with it.   We’ve submitted four proposals in the last 18 months; do I need to take any additional action? I feel like I should have caught this earlier, but I didn’t!

Regardless of whether these folks were well-intentioned, they did lie, and they need to step up and take action. In this case, the best course of action is to counsel them to make the decision about their name, then have them make contact with grantmakers who funded them under the “wrong” name.

14) I work for a large college and helped write and now manage a federal grant. My bosses want to direct the funds to help pay for stadium lights rather than paying for the upgrade of the lighting in the dormitories. Is this OK?

No, not without express written permission from the agency that funded the proposal. Since the project was written for lighting in the dormitories, if the college now wants to use funds for stadium lights, they would need to contact the agency that funded the project and amend their original proposal.

15) Our CEO really wants to digitize our organization’s library resources. We are working on a federal proposal for a program to provide more secure facilities for our after-school program for disadvantaged youth. After we have designed the security program to meet our needs there is enough budget cap that we could fit in the digitization of our library resources. Should I tag this extra expense on?

Unless the proposal includes the digitization of the library resources, you should not try to sneak it in and hope that it will be funded. Reviewers will be looking for expenditures that relate directly to the strategies identified to address the needs. When a budget line item shows up that is unrelated to strategies and more importantly unrelated to the RFP, this is a misuse of funds and will likely decrease your proposal score.

16) I am a contractor who does both grant writing and program evaluation. Is it ethical for me to include an extra $5,000 in the program evaluation portion of an application to provide compensation for the successful writing of the application?

No, this is not ethical and is simply a poorly disguised attempt to outsmart “the system” and is also a misuse of funds.

17) I’m a grant manager and I’m swamped to the point that I’m two quarters behind on the reporting requirements for two of our big federal grants. I’ve been offered a different position and am thinking about just leaving with the reports not done. Is this ethical?

No, it isn’t at all ethical. You should let your supervisor/boss know the situation and see what strategies he/she suggests to ensure that the reports get done. Possibly someone else could help you or you could contact the agency that funded the grants and request an extension. Either way, you should not just leave without being sure that the reports are completed.

18) Is it possible for me to pursue a grant opportunity on behalf on my client without the expressed consent of my client?

Unless the grant writer has the consent of the client beforehand, he may not pursue the grant opportunity. The grant writer must not step beyond the contractual boundary between the client and himself.    

19)  I was selected to give a presentation at a national conference and took several pieces out of grant that I was writing for an organization. The agency did receive the grant, but I have now found out that another agency used the exact same tables and charts from the grant and also received funds. Did I act unethically by presenting the information from the unfunded grant to others?

Unfortunately the answer to the question is yes. You violated confidentiality of your client by presenting their information without their explicit permission. Imagine if someone from the agency you were writing the grant for was in the audience when you were the presenter! Once the grant was submitted, certain documents become available for the public to see, but it still would be better to ask permission from your client to share this information before using it.

20) My agency routinely asks me to “write-in” services provided by the agency which have no direct relevance to the RFP. If the grant is funded, they indicate this money would then be transferred to my operating budget as my “grant writing fee.” Would this get me in trouble ethically with GPA if I allow this practice to continue?

Yes, if the funder discovers that your agency isn’t providing the services requested in the original proposal and that an amendment hasn’t been written to reflect the changes, they are opening themselves up for consequences ranging from having to return any funds already expended to losing the grant altogether. As the grant writer, you are obligated to inform your immediate supervisor that the practice is unethical and violates the code of ethics of your professional organization. The inclusion of irrelevant activities in an application could very easily cause the reviewers to lower the score significantly, thus losing the award.

21) I am a consultant, and in addition to my regular salary, I receive profit-sharing bonuses from my company. Is this a violation of the Code?

No. If profit sharing is a regular practice in your company, and is not based on the amount of funds raised or number of awarded proposals, it is not a violation of the code.

22)   Is it okay to be paid a commission/percentage of the grant total?

No, as a member of GPA, we are not to take a commission/percentage of the grant total, but are to work for a salary or fee. The agency/organization is paying the grant professional to write the proposal for a project or need that the organization has identified. The funder is awarding dollars for the project/need, not the skills of the grant writer.

23)  Is it OK to include my compensation directly into a grant/ renewal grant if the funder thinks it’s OK?

Yes, if the funder agrees that compensation is an allowable expense, it could be written into the grant/renewal grant. It would be unethical if you included an amount for something else with the intention of using if for your compensation.

24) Recently, I attended a training where the presenter was a member of GPA. Throughout the session, misinformation was given on a number of different topics, including, use of grant monies, reporting requirements, management of funds, confidentiality and compensation. What should I do about this?

As a member of GPA, it is your professional obligation to file a complaint in regards to what happened at the training. This clearly violates a number of sections in the Code of Ethics and spreads misinformation within the grants profession. If GPA is to be leader in the grants field, persons who participate in trainings expect that the information they receive is accurate and reflective of GPA.

25) I am on the board of a foundation that awards grants to organizations with a 501(c) (3) designation. Is it OK for me to help an applicant develop an application that I know the review board will likely fund if I tell them I like it?

To be an ethical grant professional, we all have the responsibility to not only do what is legal but also what helps to promote credibility within our profession. The instance above is likely illegal in many states since the board member is fundamentally allocating foundation funds based on their own personal desires. More importantly however, the fact that an individual is compromising a technically competitive grant process gives the impression of impropriety. In short, the practice may violate certain laws, gives the impression of professional misconduct and would be considered in violation of the GPA Code of Ethics.

26) In response to a conflict of issue question where a grant professional has been asked to sit on a board of directors for a non-profit agency, but also provides grant-writing services to this organziation.  Should they accept the invitation to sit on the board or not?

The GPA Code of Ethics does not prohibt a GPA member from serving on Board of an agency and simultaneously receiving remuneration for services from that agency. At the same time, The GPA Ethics Committee recommends that grant professionals review issues concerning this type of potential conflict of interest on a case-by-case basis. First, it is recommended the grant professional reviews the board's conflict of interest statement regarding business dealings with board members. The GPA Ethics Committee also recommends that a grant professional who serves as a board member recuse him/herself from all voting decisions pertaining to the hiring/contracting of a person/agency for grant writing services. Full disclourse should be paramount in all dealings.