Your Code of Ethics helps to guide the behavior and decision-making of your staff, volunteers, and participants by clarifying the standards and principles you pledge to uphold. It can be as simple or as complicated as you choose.
Your Code of Ethics should provide a philosophy by which decisions can be made, rather than specific do’s and don’ts. If, for example, your organization is “committed to providing children and youth with a safe and welcoming opportunity to gain soccer skills, participate on a team, and experience healthy competition,” your staff can use those guidelines to make decisions about things like entering a highly competitive tournament, playing in unsafe weather, or dealing with a bullying situation.
As you write your Code of Ethics:
- Involve a variety of stakeholders, including staff, clients, parents, and others if possible
- Feel free to review Codes of Ethics from other organizations, but make sure your Code of Ethics is tailored to your own organization
- Include the following points:
- The goals of your organization
- How you work to attain them
- The culture you seek to maintain
- Who your clients are
- Your organization’s values and principles
- Share your Code of Ethics widely, with staff, participants, parents, partners, and community members
- Consider adding it to your website, providing it in written materials to staff, and posting it internally
- Ensure that your staff is trained on the Code of Ethics and understand its value in guiding decision-making
- Leave practical information on the day-to-day operations of your organization, on dealing with issues or problems, or on mandating behavior to other documents like the Code of Conduct, staff handbooks, or Policies and Procedures.
For example, a sports league might state, “We seek above all else to produce teams that win championships at every level,” or “We seek to provide a fun, low-stress, and inclusive environment.” Either one of these statements could give coaches a great deal of guidance on their decision making about team formation, practice scheduling, etc.
However, neither of these includes a commitment to keeping participants safe from sexual abuse. The statement “We seek to produce teams that win championships at every level while ensuring that participants are safe from abuse, bullying, and other harm” provides coaches, parents, and youth with a standard far more important than winning games.
Jorge was hired as a basketball coach in September. He was trained on both the Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct for the organization. One month into the season, a parent approached him, asking if her child could join the team. She told him that the child had autism and loved basketball. However, he was not good at following rules. Jorge did not know what the league’s policy was on inclusion. However, the Code of Ethics for the organization that he had laminated to the clipboard he used at each practice stated, “The goal of the **** Basketball League is to teach young people the value of teamwork, of supporting one another, and of hard work.” From this, Jorge construed that the League would support him in taking this youth onto his team.
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