GPA Ethics FAQs
Updated May 2018
All GPA members have agreed to abide by the membership’s Code of Ethics. However, we encourage all grant professionals to abide by this code. GPA has authority to review and address only its membership.
The numbers following responses refer to the applicable standards.
Ethics Inquiry Process
Solicitation and Use of Funds
Presentation of Information
Ethics Inquiry Process
- 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 committee. If necessary, the form can be obtained from the CEO. To keep things consistent and equitable, all complaints must be on the required form. Click here for more information on the process.
- 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 committee to determine if a violation has/has not occurred. Click here for more information on the process.
- 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 a GPA member “forge” the signatures of others. Alternatives may include finding another authorized signer at the organization or contact your legal counsel for advice about setting up a proxy. (1, 2)
- 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?
A grants professional must act according to the highest ethical standards of their institution, profession, and conscience. We suggest that you first speak with your colleague and urge her to be honest about her credentials. If your colleague is not willing to correct her information, then you should tell your employer. You and your organization may not misrepresent anyone’s credentials or provide false information in a grant proposal or application. (1, 2, 5)
- I have been asked to evaluate a grant opportunity 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 about their individual capabilities. If the evaluation or grant writing request is beyond the scope of your education and/or expertise it is appropriate to tell the agency.
- 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. You also need to state that this behavior can be seen as contractually illegal by the grantor. The best option would be to help your client see why she should contact the grantor to discuss options. It is important for them to work with the grantmaker to create a relationship based on trust so that they continue to be eligible for future funding.
If the client refuses to contact the grant-maker, 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. From an ethical position, the issue of where or not you lose them as a client should not be a determining factor on how you handle the situation.
- I am an independent consultant and I’ve recently noticed that one of my occasional clients changes the meaning behind their acronym periodically. 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?
In this case, the best course of action is to counsel them to make the decision about their name, and then have them make contact the grantors who funded them under the “wrong” name.
- What happens if a consultant is contracted to write a proposal, but doesn’t follow through with anything and just keeps the money?
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. If an Ethics Violation is filed with GPA, the Ethics Committee would likely find the member in violation and recommend that the consultant’s membership be terminated. The Ethics Committee would likely forward the complaint to the Grant Professionals Certification Institute if the consultant is certified. (1, 5, 6 and 11)
- Is it possible for me to pursue a grant opportunity on behalf of my client without the expressed consent of my client?
Unless the grant professional has the consent of the client beforehand, they may not pursue the grant opportunity. The grant professional must not step beyond the contractual boundary between the client and themselves.
Is it ethical for a grant professional to work on applications for submission to the same funder from multiple clients?
Yes, as long as the grant professional is transparent with all clients to the fact they are working on multiple proposals for the same funder. A grant professional should reassure all clients they will be attentive to their individual agency’s needs and write the proposals accordingly. The grant professional should take care to ensure no privileged information from either client is shared with the other. Also, the grant professional should stay mindful of the research they conduct for a particular application/proposal. If research is completed that potentially assists both clients at the same time, then those clients should share the cost of research evenly. Charging multiple clients for the same research is a breach of ethical standards.
- 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?
The grants professional should disclose their relationship to the applicant and the degree to which they were involved in the application. They should recuse themselves from any decision on funding.
- 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.
- Recently, I attended 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?
It depends. This question does not have enough information to render a definitive answer. If the presenter intentionally and deliberately provided false information, it would be an ethics violation.
- A grant professional has been invited to sit on the board of directors for a nonprofit agency for which they provide grant writing services. Is there a conflict of interest and should they accept or decline the invitation?
The GPA Ethics Committee recommends that grant professionals review issues concerning this type of potential conflict of interest on a case-by-case basis.
The GPA Code of Ethics does not prohibit a GPA member from serving on the board of an agency and simultaneously receiving remuneration for services from that agency. The determination of compensating a board member for services is particular to an organization. However, it is best to undertake this type of arrangement with a Board Approved Policy in place. It is recommended that 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 themselves from all voting decisions pertaining to the hiring/contracting of a person/agency for grant writing services. Full disclosure should be paramount in all dealings.
- I’m a grants 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?
It is not ethical to leave your position without addressing the late reports. You should let your supervisor know the situation and see what strategies he/she suggests to ensure that the reports are completed.
Solicitation and Use of Funds
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 a misuse of funds.
- 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, as the grant professional, you are obligated to inform your immediate supervisor that the practice is unethical and violates the code of ethics of your professional organization. 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. The inclusion of irrelevant activities in an application could very easily cause the reviewers to lower the score significantly, thus losing the award.
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Presentation of Information
- 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 breach of ethics by GPA, Section 14 of Code of Ethics. It should be noted that work created for an organization belongs to that organization and can be used without citation.
- 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 professional, if you think that the information is incorrect, you should ask the district to confirm the data and insert the proper reference. Data used from previous years must be cited with the correct year.
- I was selected to give a presentation at a national conference and took several pieces out of a grant application that I was writing for an organization. The agency did not receive the grant, but I have now found out that another agency used the exact tables and charts from the grant and also received funds. Did I act unethically by presenting the information from the unfunded grant to others?
If you did not have permission from your client, you violated confidentiality by presenting their information without their explicit permission. The exception would be statistical community/public information. Once the grant proposal/application 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.
- 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!
- Through my work as a grant professional, 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. We encourage you to refer to your employer’s conflict of interest policy.
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- 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.
- 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 professional.
- 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.