The Association Professional As An Ethical Being

Ethics has always been a primary gauge of an Association Professional and now even more so with the recent adoption of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Standards of Conduct.  At the St. Louis ASAE Board of Director Meeting earlier this month, a  new Preamble and Ethical Standards were approved by the Board unanimously which now sets the standards of professional behavior for all who are members of ASAE.  For the very first time, ethical standards are now in place for not just Association Professionals but for all Business Partners and Consultants who pride themselves as ASAE members.

The Preamble to the document says it all:  “More than 287 million people around the globe look to associations for their vision, their values and their effectiveness.  With this role comes a great responsibility for associations to serve members and the public with integrity.  To fulfill this responsibility, ASAE’s membership of association professionals and industry partners are committed to ethical standards that promote the goal of transforming society for better.”

“The Standards of Conduct embody aspirational ethical standards.  The aspirational standards describe the conduct that we strive to uphold as ASAE members.  Although adherence to the apirational ethical standards is not easily measured, conducting ourselves in accordance with these ethical standards is an expectation that we have of ourselves as professionals.  Among the aspirational ethical concepts which these Standards embrace are those of respect, responsibility, fairness and honesty.”

*  Respect is our duty to show a high regard for ourselves, others, and the resources entrusted to us.  Resources entrusted to us may include people, money, reputation, the safety of others, and natural or environmental resources.  An environment of respect engenders trust, confidence, and perspectives and views are encouraged and valued.

*  Responsibility is our duty to take ownership for the decisions we make or fail to make, the actions we take or fail to take, and the consequences that result.

*  Fairness is our duty to make decisions and act impartially and objectively.  Our conduct must be free from competing self interest, prejudice, and favoritism.

*  Honesty is our duty to understand the truth and act in a truthful manner both in our communications and in our conduct.

The Core Ethical Standards as an ASAE Member:

1)  Respect and uphold public laws that govern my work;

2)  Be honest in conducting my business;

3)  Respect the confidentiality of information gained through my work;

4)  Act fairly;

5)  Foster an ethical culture through my work;

6)  Take responsibility for my conduct.

It is certainly about time that such a Standard of Conduct is in place for all Association Professionals since as part of an association’s Form 990, Board Members have been obligated to sign a Conflict of Interest Policy for themselves in respect to the actions they partake in for the association during that given year.  Sarbanes-Oxley has demanded such formal action be taken despite the fact that for years Boards have certainly declared their lack of such conflict while doing official business for the association.  Such new obligations of signed forms and appropriate placement of formal personal conflict of interest statements on the agenda only help but remind all who oversee an association that we are all here for the betterment of the membership and society as a whole and not for any particular person or persons.

Many associations have Legal Counsel present at all Board Meetings but for those groups who cannot justify the expense, such responsibility must fall upon the shoulders of the Association Executive who is present to remind all participants what is appropriate and what is “out of bounds.”  We all know that price fixing and directly creating policies and procedures to benefit certain members are not legal actions, but it also behooves those who oversee an association to make sure that they give no real or inference of impropriety.

With Whistle Blower Policies and with the desire for state and federal agencies to find new monies to balance their budgets, it is certainly important for all associations and their Leaders to be as proper as possible and to never give anyone the opportunity to think ill of the organization that many have spent their lifetimes developing and watching it flourish.

Many thanks to countless ASAE Ethics Committee Leaders and members who have worked dilligently over the years to make these new standards what they are today.  All ASAE members appreciate your effort and deliberation.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words and 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

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