The reading is a case from the Daniels Fund Case Bank, which is about organizational ethics and ethical culture. Please find the case here.
In your comment, please identify two ethical issues of the non-profit organization ECR and provide a recommendation how these issues could be solved.
maximum 250 words
EARLY CHILDHOOD DISEASE
PART A INTRODUCTION
The Board of Directors of the Early Childhood Disease Research Foundation (ECR) is undertaking a review
of its strategic plan. You have been engaged by the Board to review ECR operations and make
recommendations. The goal is to ensure the continued viability of ECR as the leading funding organization
for research in rare early childhood diseases. You will review financial data and operating practices as disclosed
in interviews of the ECR staff and Board.
ECR is a nonprofit organization founded in 1963. Its mission is to fund research on rare early childhood
diseases and to make the research results widely available. It accomplishes this mission through extensive
fundraising activities; a prestigious grant program working with universities, hospitals and research labs; and a
public conference program. All of these efforts have experienced substantial growth over the previous decade.
The organization is led by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who is primarily a fundraiser. The CEO leaves
day-to-day operations of ECR to an Executive Vice President. The Board is composed largely of individuals
who have been chosen for their ability to create fundraising contacts or provide credibility to ECR as an
Funds raised have risen each year over the 10-year period ending 12/31/2014. The following chart illustrates
the growth: Total funds raised in 2014 were nearly $36 million. Grants awarded amounted to $24 million. Conferences
have drawn increasing attendance and positive publicity for the organization. Large conferences are held in
February on the West Coast and in July on the East Coast. Attendance in 2014 at these conferences was in
excess of 1,000. In addition, four regional conferences are held each year across the country. In 2014, these
conferences averaged 200 attendees. Sponsors and a vendor exhibit hall are now funding 75% of the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative | CASE BANK conference costs. Attendance fees have pushed the conferences into a profit center position. The overall
operating budget for overhead (OH) and fundraising was $7.4 million. The following chart shows the budget
over a 10-year period. ECR has a small full-time staff of 20 people. Besides the CEO and Executive Vice President, this includes five
Grants Officers, three full-time Conference Planners, and a PR/Communications Director. (Note:
Conference Planners are responsible for all the logistics of holding conferences including selection of city,
selection of conference facilities and hotels, coordinating all onsite support such as meals, audio visual support,
etc.) The other positions are bookkeeping, information technology support, and office support including an
Office Manager. A new Finance Manager has just been hired. Human Resources? support is provided by the
Office Manager; Accounts Payable is outsourced; the General Counsel function is provided by a partner at a
large law firm, largely on a pro bono basis. Staff salaries are very competitive. There is excellent medical
insurance and a 401K with a strong match.
EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEWS
CEO (Sharon): ?Given the economic issues over the last few years, we have posted very strong results. Our
research has been written up in the press and has resulted in several significant breakthroughs. Our major
contributors certainly are focused on the value of the work that we do and how it helps people, but the good
publicity they get doesn?t hurt at all. I focus most of my time on developing new sources of funding. That?s
why having an Executive Vice President like Rob is so important to our success. He was here when I took this
job and I don?t know what I would do without him. He keeps everything running and does a great job making
our existing contributors feel appreciated. I really don?t have to pay any attention at all to the operational side
of things and the staff loves him. Rob has introduced a lot of new initiatives. I have to admit that I was
skeptical when the first thing he proposed to me was expanding our conference program, but it has been a real
home run. We used to hold one educational conference a year at a university site that 200-300 people
attended, and no one noticed outside of the research community. Seven years later, we have 1,000 people
showing up at major conference centers twice a year and coverage from some prestigious publications and
news channels. Some folks have griped about how much money these meetings cost, but the payoff is in the
money we raise for our work.?
Executive Vice President (Rob): ?I?ve been here for 10 years and the results speak for themselves. We?ve
grown in size and influence every year. I doubt you can find a similar organization in the country with the
Page 2 of 5 © 2015 Daniels Fund. All rights reserved. Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative | CASE BANK success story we have. Our stakeholders are happy with how their money is spent. They really love the
opportunity for favorable publicity that our conference program provides to them. I?ve heard an occasional
grumble from a couple of the Board members about the conferences being too lavish, but that always dies out.
The numbers don?t lie. Of course, none of this happens without our staff. These folks are great. Young,
enthusiastic, and ambitious. We take care of them. Promotion from within is our preference. Sometimes we
have even created new positions to provide promotional opportunities. We just did that with Susan, one of
our Conference Planners. She was named Director of Conferences last month. With the conference program
we run here, she?s indispensable. I know the other two Conference Planners have a lot more experience than
Susan, but she has a high energy level and she has a great grasp of what we?re trying to do when we negotiate
our conference contracts. Performance is what gets rewarded, not years of experience. Susan has been
invaluable in maintaining the strong relationships we have with major hotel chains that have the ability to host
our conferences. You asked about staff stability. We have some turnover but nothing unusual in this type of
operation. This past year we lost four people but replaced all of them without too much trouble. One of them
was a new Finance Manager who started two weeks ago ? we?re still educating Seth on how we do things, but
I?m sure he?ll fit right in when he gets the lay of the land.?
Finance Manager (Seth): ?I?m new here so I can only provide some first impressions. ECR is a strange
environment. Some of the staff seem really pleased with the place, others not so much. No one complains, but
there isn?t a lot of the office comradery I?m used to. This is my first management position, so I?m really trying
to adjust theory to reality. For example, I thought that our processes for approving expenses and payments
were a bit, well, ?informal? is the word that comes to mind. I mean, Rob approves everything, no two signature
requirement for payments, and no firm guidelines on expenses for travel or entertaining. When I saw some of
the dinner tabs, wow! Turns out that is part of how Rob keeps the staff happy, plus some of the dinners
involved our major contributors and even some Board members. The more I spend time with the books, the
more comfortable I get. In fact, our audit reports for the last four years are really clean ? not a single finding.?
Executive Assistant (Debra): ?I?m not sure there is very much I can tell you. We don?t see Sharon much here
in the office, but she has always been pleasant and appreciative of the staff. Rob really runs things. If Rob is
happy, then you?ve done your job. I will say that I don?t understand why folks like Susan get promoted so
quickly, but it happens here a lot. I know she?s a lot of fun to be around, but she?s only been here two years and
it was her first job out of college. Shelly was Susan?s predecessor and she was also fresh out of college, but she
didn?t last long. Pat and Art, the other two conference planners, are real pros, but I guess Rob knows what he?s
doing. Like I said, theres not much I can tell you.?
Grants Officer (Ryan): ?What I love about working here is the discretion we Grants Officers have in
reviewing and awarding grants for research. This is important work. We do send all grant recommendations
to the Board, but they simply approve them in a block. They do like to get highlights on our more successful
grant research and we make sure that information gets to them on a regular basis. The Grants Officers do the
real work, selecting the grant proposals that will get consideration, chairing oral presentations by the research
institutions, and making the final selections, of course with Board approval. We each have an area of research
we monitor and I can assure you the researchers know which of us handles what. I see them at the conferences
twice a year and we get a chance to hang out informally. Makes the formal part of the process a lot easier. Each
Grants Officer has a specific goal for the year to award a certain number of grants and Rob watches the goal
very closely. I know it?s important to get the work awarded ? no grants, no research. Of course the bonus
money at year-end for hitting the goal is a great incentive. ECR is a great place to work.?
Page 3 of 5 © 2015 Daniels Fund. All rights reserved. Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative | CASE BANK Public Relations/Communications Director (Frank): ?I came here from a pharmaceutical company. Before
that, I did this type of work with an information technology firm and a large investment firm. I?ve been
around. PR is the same no matter where you go. I work with Sharon on a constant basis. She understands the
importance of a good communications program and good press relations. So do most of the Board. Luckily,
we have mostly good news stories to get out there, so even the grumblers on the Board ? the ones who think
we are a bit too lavish or a bit too informal ? are happy. Results make all the difference.?
Chair of the Board of Directors (Emily): ?I asked for this review not because I?m disappointed in our results,
but because I want to make sure that we stay ahead of the curve. Nonprofits are constantly challenged to stay
viable and I don?t want to have a downturn on my watch. I?m a business person and performance is what keeps
you viable. Sharon and Rob are a great team, I just want to make sure we support them appropriately. I must
say that Rob and Susan do a great job planning our Board meetings. The environment makes a difference,
especially for our Board members who are all busy people with tight schedules. We can come in, relax, have a
good meal and get right to business the next morning. Rob puts together a tight agenda and provides all the
right information in advance. The new grant proposals are synopsized and easy to understand; we don?t even
need to discuss them, just get the approval on the board minutes. Rob usually takes us right through the
budget numbers so we can focus on Sharon?s report on fundraising activities. That?s where we spend most of
our time. Oh, Frank always gives us the ?good news? report at the end of the meeting. It?s great knowing that
our grant money is producing results.?
Member of the Board of Directors (Dr. West): ?I think ECR is a very effective organization and it?s doing
good work. I?m a pediatric cardiologist, so this work is close to my heart. Overall, it?s hard to criticize the
organization. I mean, look at the numbers! I admit mine is often a skeptical voice on the Board. I must drive
Rob crazy with all my questions. I keep thinking, do we really need to spend some of the money we do?
Wouldn?t the conferences be just as effective in lower key venues? Should we look in more detail at our
research results? Of course, at the end of the day, we are recognized as one of the most effective organizations
in the field, so I guess that?s my answer. Hopefully you can help us ?fine tune? the organization.?
Office Manager (Leslie): ?This is a very well-run organization. Rob runs a very tight organization, but he still
manages to keep it almost a family type atmosphere. I don?t deal with Sharon very much ? she?s hardly ever in
the office. Rob runs things and I can?t say enough good things about him. I keep him up-to-speed on
everything in the office. I?m his eyes and ears on the ground, so to speak. Besides the day-to-day office
administration, I also provide the human resources support for the staff. Usually it?s just paperwork on
benefits and performance reviews; that sort of thing. I?m here if people have concerns, but honestly, I haven?t
heard a complaint in the five years I?ve been here. Why would anyone complain? Rob takes care of his top
performers, passing on some of the perks that come in from our conference partners and exhibitors, for
example. It?s a happy place.?
Grants Officer (Miriam): ?We do a substantial volume of grant work here. ECR received about 500 grant
proposals in 2014. The number has been going up for years, so we added a fifth Grants Officer in 2011. That
helped, but it?s still a lot of work. We review them against previous work in the field, identify which proposals
present an opportunity to continue promising work (we have a lot of renewal grants), which are looking at
new approaches that have promise, and which aren?t adequately supported or don?t really fit within the scope
of our work. Those latter proposals just get a polite letter saying we will not be able to fund their work. We
used to do peer reviews the way the National Institutes of Health does, but Rob did away with that to speed
up the process and get more grants awarded. All the Grant Officers have background and education in
Page 4 of 5 © 2015 Daniels Fund. All rights reserved. Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative | CASE BANK medical research. Rob?s position is that with a mature program such as ECR?s, we can filter the grant
proposals more than adequately. After the initial review, we ask for supporting information on the proposed
budget (well, at least I do ? I don?t know how the other Grants Officers handle it). In any case, we run
everything past the Board before awarding and there are some heavy hitters there to catch anything that gets
past us. Honestly, the one area I think we are weak is monitoring progress. The progress reports we require
are pretty perfunctory. The final reports have more detail, but I have yet to see a researcher tell me they didn?t
get useful results. The Board eats up the success stories. Rob and Sharon get a regular report on that sort of
General Counsel (John): ?My firm provides a fair amount of pro bono support to ECR. We helped develop the
pro forma grant agreement, answer questions from the Grant Officers when someone wants to alter the terms
of the grant agreement, and help with intellectual property issues. Truthfully, that is most of what we do for
ECR. I do attend all Board meetings and perform the corporate secretary functions for the Board and ECR.
The firm does a lot of research grant legal work so this is relatively straightforward for us.?
Conference Planner (Pat): ?We have an extraordinary volume of meeting and conference work for an
organization of this size. That?s good for my department. We handle the regional meetings entirely within the
department. For the two big national conferences, we do all the leg work, but Rob steps in to work the
negotiations. He visits the competing venues with one of the Conference Planners; usually Susan the last
couple of years. Before her, it was Shelly. The site visits cost a lot of travel dollars, but they?re really necessary
with the level of complexity and the size of the national conferences. Art and I handle the regional conference
site visits. Honestly, I have no idea what goes on at the conferences, this research stuff is over my head. But
meeting planning I know and we run first-rate meetings and conferences. The feedback from the attendees is
always positive on the arrangements. I can get you copies of the feedback surveys if you like.?
ADDITIONAL OPERATIONAL DATA
Awarded Grant Dollars
Awarded $ Awarded per
Grant Officer Grants Reviewed per
Grant Officer Grants
Grant Officer Average Value
per Grant 2005
380,938 Charles Chadwick, Senior Consultant, Ethics Resource Center, wrote this case with the approval and collaboration of
the Daniels Fund.
Page 5 of 5 © 2015 Daniels Fund. All rights reserved. EARLY CHILDHOOD DISEASE
PART B: CRISIS SITUATION The Board of Directors has received an anonymous letter with a series of allegations against the Executive
Vice President. The letter is attached. Almost simultaneously, the CEO received a phone call from a national
news network. A copy of the letter was provided to the network, apparently before it was received by the
Board Chair. They are preparing a story and are looking for comment from the CEO.
Please prepare recommendations to the Board on how they should proceed on both the allegations and the
request for comment. Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative | CASE BANK Ms. Emily Hirsch
Chair of the Board of Directors
Early Childhood Disease Research Foundation
Dear Ms. Hirsch,
I am compelled to write to you so that you are not blindsided. What is going on inside of the Foundation is
simply inexcusable and possibly illegal. The actions of Mr. Rob Adams, Executive Vice President, have put
ECR at risk and may ruin its reputation forever. Here is just a short list of his transgressions.
ƒ He is engaged in an affair with Susan Thompson. This has been going on for at least two years and is
not the first time he has had an affair with a staff member. Her promotion and exorbitant raises are a
direct result of this affair.
Mr. Adams has used his Foundation credit card for personal expenses, including lavish meals and
trips. Why are his expenses never challenged? This is money that should go to helping children!
He takes favors from hotel chains who want him to award business to them. The scouting trips he
takes for conference sites are just an excuse for a stay at a resort with his girlfriend. Who?s watching
for this? Obviously, not his boss or the Board.
Adams is moonlighting on ECR?s time, ?helping? another nonprofit organization. I?m sure he?s getting
consulting fees for this.
Everyone is using ECR to further their own purposes. Everyone in authority is skimming one way or
another. No one on the ECR staff feels it is safe to raise these issues and I can understand why. Mr. Adams controls all
the key staff positions and makes sure they stay loyal to him. This is only what I know about, but I?m sure
there is more.
You need to take action before he takes down the whole organization and the Board as well. I have sent this
letter elsewhere, including to Ms. Sharon Atwell, the CEO of ECR, but I know that will be a waste of time.
Act before it is too late!
A Concerned Observer Charles Chadwick, Senior Consultant, Ethics Resource Center, wrote this case with the approval and collaboration of
the Daniels Fund.
Page 2 of 2 © 2015 Daniels Fund. All rights reserved.
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