Statement of Values and Code of Ethics
for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations

Independent Sector Convenes Panel on the Nonprofit Sector


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Resources for Developing a Code of Ethics

Improving Practice and Self Regulation

Strengthening Legislative and Regulatory Oversight Information on Congress, IRS, and State Activities

The Independent Sector Statement of Values and Code of Ethics for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations is intended as a model for use by nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. IS strongly recommends that all nonprofits and foundations have a code of ethics and provides this model as a tool to help them develop a code or review an existing one.

What You Can Do:

  • Read the Statement of Values and Code of Ethics and share it with your board and staff.
  • For organizations that have a code of ethics—Work with your board and staff to review your organization's code to ensure it covers the relevant areas mentioned in this model and addresses other elements unique to your organization. Make sure that you have a process in place to review adherence to the code on a regular basis.
  • For organizations that do not have a code—Discuss with your board and staff the need for a code of ethics. Consider whether this model code can be adopted as is or how it needs to be revised to fit your organization's mission and structure.
  • For all—Share your experiences and feedback with us so we can incorporate lessons learned into future tools and resources. Please email us at

The process by which a code is adopted and implemented is just as important as the code itself. The board and staff should be involved in developing, drafting, adopting, and implementing a code that fits the organization's unique characteristics. We encourage you to set aside time in your board meeting or at a retreat to discuss in detail all aspects of an ethical code—and be sure that new board members understand and embrace your code of ethics and practices. In the coming months, IS will provide additional information to guide you in this process and share other resources that you may find helpful.

This document was drafted by a special taskforce of the Independent Sector Ethics and Accountability Committee, distributed to IS members for review over a four-month period from October 2003 through January 2004, and approved by the IS Board of Directors on January 29, 2004.

A code of ethics is, by necessity, general in outlining broad ethical principles. It is not a detailed set of recommended practices on a specific issue. In many cases, those more specific recommended practices are provided by existing standards of national, regional, and subsector-specific groups. (For a comprehensive list, please visit IS's Compendium of Standards, Codes, and Principles of Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations.) In cases where such standards do not exist or need strengthening, we plan to offer recommendations in the future. This statement of values and code of ethics is not intended in any way to duplicate or substitute for the work of organizations promoting standards of practice, but rather is intended as a model that organizations can draw from in reviewing or adopting a code of ethics.

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