1. Preamble

1.1 InterAction, a membership association of US private voluntary organizations, exists to enhance the effectiveness and professional capacities of its members engaged in international humanitarian efforts.

1.2 InterAction follows the highest ethical standards in carrying out its mission. We are committed to encouraging professional competence, ethical practices, and quality services.

1.3 Each member organization shall adhere to those unique principles of governance, volunteer involvement, support from the private sector, fund raising, service, and programs which enable it to be accurately described as a private and voluntary organization.

2.0 Governance

2.1 A member organization shall be governed fairly, impartially, and responsibly by an independent Board of Directors and its duly constituted Executive Committee.

2.2 Each organization shall have an independent, active, and informed Board of Directors, serving without compensation as directors. The Board shall have policies which specify the frequency of Board meetings (at least two per year) and adequate attendance by directors (at least a majority on average). The Board may designate an Executive Committee to act in its place as long as the Executive Committee has policy-making authority. The Board shall have policies restricting the number of employees who are voting members of the Board; providing limits for directors being related to one another, the Founder, or the Executive Director; and establishing limited terms of service for directors and officers.

2.3 The Board shall adopt a policy which prohibits direct and indirect conflicts of interest by members of the Board, employees, and volunteers. Board members, employees and volunteers shall make known to the Board any affiliation they might have with an actual or potential supplier of goods and services, recipient of grant funds, or organization with competing or conflicting objectives. Board members and employees shall absent themselves from discussion and abstain from voting or otherwise participating in the decision on any issue in which there is a conflict of interest. Large or otherwise inappropriate gifts to Board members or staff for personal use shall be forbidden.

2.4 Though the Board may delegate to staff, it must accept ultimate responsibility for governance over all aspects of the organization.

2.5 The Board shall approve the annual budget, appoint an independent auditor, receive the annual, audited financial statements, and appoint an Audit Committee to review the financial statements and activities of the organization.

2.6 The Board shall adopt a policy requiring that no person shall be excluded from participation in the organization, be denied the benefits of the organization, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination by the organization, on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, religion, handicap, or sex. (The preceding sentence notwithstanding, pursuant to Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1984, religious organizations may discriminate in their employment practices with regard to religion only.)

2.7 All activities shall be conducted within applicable laws.

3.0 Organizational Integrity

3.1 The affairs of the member organization shall be conducted with integrity and truthfulness. The organization's activities shall be open and accessible to scrutiny by its donors, except for personnel matters and proprietary information.

3.2 Each organization shall have a written standard of conduct for its directors, employees and volunteers, which they shall commit to follow.

3.3 The organization shall endeavor to assure confidentiality to employees desiring it who present evidence of misconduct or other irregularities on the part of anyone associated with the organization.

3.4 The organization shall oppose and shall not be a willing party to wrongdoing, corruption, bribery, other financial impropriety, or illegal acts in any of its activities. It shall take prompt and firm corrective action whenever and wherever wrongdoing of any kind is found among its Board, employees, contractors, and volunteers. Ethics standards shall be maintained despite possible prevailing contrary practices elsewhere.

3.5 In all of its activities, a member shall respect the dignity, values, history, religion, and culture of all of its constituents.

3.6 A member shall recognize that all of its activities impact on the public perception of the PVC community, and that it shares a significant responsibility to enhance the public trust.

4.0 Finances

4.1 The finances of a member organization shall be conducted in such a way as to assure appropriate use of funds and accountability to donors.

4.2 The organization shall have an annual audited financial statement, conducted by an independent Certified Public Accountant. The audited financial statement shall comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Standards and Requirements according to the AICPA and the FASB. The auditors shall present a "management letter" to the Board of Directors. (Organizations with less than $100,000 annual income need not have an independent auditor.)

4.3 The organization shall complete and file Form 990 annually to the US Government. (Religious organizations are exempt by law from this provision.)

4.4 The audited financial statement (and the Form 990, if applicable) shall be provided to any inquirer upon reasonable written request.

4.5 An Annual Report including a statement of the organization's purpose, full or summary financial statement, description of the goals, summary of overall program activities, results of the work of the organization, and information about current Board members shall be provided upon written or verbal request.

4.6 The organization's combined fund raising and administration costs shall be kept to the minimum necessary to meet the agency's needs. Allocations of expenditures to administration, fund raising, and program services shall reflect the organization's purposes, actual activities, and generally accepted accounting principles.

4.7 The organization shall operate a budget approved by the Board. It shall account for funds from the moment they are received until they are used in the project or services. It shall exercise adequate internal controls over disbursements to avoid unauthorized payments. The organization shall not have secret funds and it shall prohibit and unaudited transactions or loans to Board members and to staff.

4.8 Contributions shall be used as promised or implied in the fund raising appeal or as requested by the donor. If funds cannot be spent this way, they shall be returned to the donor, or the donor shall be advised of the planned alternative use and given the opportunity to request a return of the contribution. Organizations shall substantiate, upon request, that their application of funds is in accordance with donor intent or request. Resources shall not be used as instruments of partisan influence or personal gain.

4.9 International currency exchange shall comply with applicable laws, have appropriate Government approvals, and be clearly recorded.

5.0 Communications to the Public

5.1 The member organization shall be committed to full, honest, and accurate disclosure of relevant information concerning its goals, programs, finances, and governance.

5.2 Fund raising solicitations shall be truthful, shall accurately describe the organization's identity, purpose, programs, and need, shall only make claims which the organization can fulfill, and shall avoid placing excessive pressure on donors. There shall be no material omissions or exaggerations of fact, no use of misleading photographs, nor any other communication which would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding. Information in the organization's appeals should give accurate balance to the actual programs for which the funds solicited will be used. The organization shall not undertake negative advertising or criticize other member organizations to benefit themselves.

5.3 An organization's communications shall respect the dignity, values, history, religion, and culture of the people served by the programs. They shall neither minimize nor overstate the human and material needs of those whom it assists.

5.4 If an organization sells, rents, or exchanges the names of its donors, it shall notify the donors of its intention to do so, giving them the option to be eliminated from the list for sale, rent or exchange.

5.5 If the organization engages in fund raising events or cause- related marketing, the amount of funds going to the charity shall be clearly described prior to, or in conjunction with, the effort.

5.6 Organizations shall control all fund raising activities conducted on their behalf. All fund raising contracts and agreements shall be reduced to writing.

5.7 Staff engaged in fund raising and public relations should meet the standards of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives and Public Relations Society of America respectively.

6.0 Management Practice and Human Resources

6.1 A member organization shall endeavor to follow best management practices appropriate to its mission, operations, and governance structure.

6.2 A member organization shall periodically reassess its mission and operations in light of the changing world environment through an on-going strategic planning process.

6.3 A member organization shall have clear, well-defined, written policies and procedures relating to all employees and volunteers, including host country nationals and expatriates.

6.3.1 Such policies shall clearly define and protect the rights of employees, assuring fair treatment in all matters.

6.3.2 Employee benefits shall be clearly described and communicated, and the organization shall make financial arrangements to protect its ability to honor its obligations to employees.

6.3.3 The organization's expectations of employees shall be clearly defined and communicated.

6.4 A member organization shall have policies and procedures to promote gender and minority equity, pluralism, diversity, and affirmative action in recruitment, hiring, training, and professional development and advancement.

6.5 A member shall endeavor to recruit and retain staff that combine professional competence with a commitment to service.

7.0 Program

7.1 General Program Standards

7.1.1 A member's program shall facilitate self-reliance, self-help, popular participation and sustainable development, so as to avoid dependency.

7.1.2 Participants from all groups affected should, to the maximum extent possible, be responsible for the design, implementation, and evaluation of projects and programs.

7.1.3 A member shall give priority to working with or through local and national institutions and groups, encouraging their creation where they do not already exist, or strengthening them where they do.

7.1.4 In its program activities, members shall respect and foster human rights, both socio-economic and civil-political.

7.1.5 A member's programs shall respect the dignity, values, history, religion, and culture of the people served.

7.1.6 A member's fundamental concern shall be the well-being of those affected; its programs shall assist those who are at risk without political, religious, gender, or other discrimination; and a high priority shall be given to strengthening the capacities of the most vulnerable groups, typically women, children, minorities, the dialed, and the very poor.

7.1. Where possible, programs shall promote the advancement of the status of women and their empowerment.

7.1.8 In the planning of programs and projects, a member shall consider the full range of potential impacts upon the host country including: the potential to strengthen the capacity of local structures and institutions to absorb constructively financial and other inputs, and where resources exceed capacity, to create new auxiliary structures such as locally controlled foundations or funds; the potential for sustaining the program in the future; the effect upon the demand and markets for locally produced goods and services; the potential for individual and community empowerment; and the effects upon the natural environment and ecosystems.

7.1.9 A member shall have defined procedures for evaluating, both qualitatively and quantitatively, its programs and projects. These procedures shall address both the efficiency of the use of inputs, and the effectiveness of the outputs, i.e. the impacts on the program participants, and the relationship of these impacts to the cost of achieving them.

7.1.10 A member shall be willing to share program knowledge and experience with program participants, other agencies, donors, and other constituencies.

7.1.11 Members shall adhere to the professional standards in their field of activity.

7.2 Emergency Civil Conflict, and Disaster Response

7.2.1 A member shall use its best efforts to ensure that assistance is provided on a non-discriminatory basis. To the maximum extent possible, disaster response should be treated as a humanitarian and non-political matter.

7.2.2 A member shall affirm that, in responding to disasters for the benefit of civilian populations, its response will be coordinated with other local and international humanitarian organizations in order to ensure prompt action and effective allocation of resources, and to avoid duplication of effort.

7.2.3 A member providing humanitarian assistance and protection in settings of armed conflict shall be guided and informed by the "Providence Principles of Humanitarian Action in Armed Conflicts", and by "Humanitarian Principles and Policy Guidelines: A Handbook for Practitioners", developed by the Humanitarianism and War Project.

7.3 Material Assistance

7.3.1 Programs involving the provision of emergency and material assistance shall be carried out, to the maximum extent feasible, in a manner intended to undergird and enhance local know-how and productive capacity, to avoid the creation of dependencies, to reduce vulnerability to future disasters, and to lay the basis for longer term development.

7.3.2 Materials provided shall be appropriate, based on an assessment of local needs, and sensitive to the local culture and situation.

7.3.3 Members involved in the provision of food aid shall be guided and informed by the "Representative Food Aid Standards" promulgated by Food Aid Management. A member utilizing gifts-in-kind shall be guided and informed by the "Interagency Gifts-In-Kind Standards Project" of the Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations (AERDO).

7.3.4 A member receiving and distributing medical supplies shall be guided and informed by "The Use of Essential Drugs" containing the sixth model list of essential drugs promulgated by the World Health Organization.

7.3.5 A member utilizing gifts-in-kind shall have policies that clearly describe the valuation and auditing methods used, including diminution of value based on dating and shelf life; establish limits to the number of times that goods will be passed to other PVOs before being passed on to an end user; assure that only gifts-in-kind that are related to the basic mission and purposes of the organization, and that are appropriate to the local situation, will be received and disbursed; that processing fees will be assessed in relation to the cost incurred, not to the value of the goods involved; that gifts-in- kind will be used for the purpose intended by the donor and will not be diverted for financial gain unrelated to the purpose for which the gift was made; and that proper documentation will be maintained on all gift-in-kind transactions.

7.4 Migration and Refugee Assistance

7.4.1 A member involved in migration and refugee affairs shall be guided and informed by the 1951 UN Convention and l967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

7.4.2 Those agencies active in the U.S. Reception and Placement Program of Refugee Resettlement shall adhere to the mutually agreed upon Bureau for Refugee Program Guidelines for Participants.

7.5 Development

7.5.1 Members involved in development assistance shall be guided by the professional standards developed by recognized authorities related to their sectoral areas of discipline. Examples could include, but are not limited to the following: the "Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality" promulgated by the World Health Organization; "Housing and Health: An Agenda for Action" promulgated by the World Health Organization; the "World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children" promulgated by UNICEF; and "Learning for All: Bridging Domestic and International Education; Conference Report, US Coalition for Education for All".

7.6 Child Sponsorship

7.6.1 A member involved in child sponsorship shall have a policy affirming that each sponsored child and his or her family will be primary beneficiaries of the program; and that a member will not knowingly enroll a child or family already enrolled by another sponsorship agency.

7.6.2 A member involved in child sponsorship will be informed and guided by the Code of Ethics for Sponsorship Agencies dated October 4, 1990.

7.7 Development Education

7.7.1 The focus of development education efforts should be to engage the US public in the recognition of global interdependence and its long term impact upon the well-being of all societies, and to develop a constituency in support of a constructive US role in the world.

7.7.2 A member involved in development education shall be informed and guided by the "Guidelines for PVOs: An Aid to the Development of Education, Public Information and Fundraising Materials About Africa" from "Toward Partnership in Africa", pp. 146-160, with suitable adaptation to other areas of the world.

7.7.3 A member shall make a clear distinction between its fundraising and development education efforts, especially in its financial reporting, adhering to the relevant positions of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) regarding the appropriate allocation of the expenses related to these activities.

8.0 Public Policy

8.1 A member organization shall have a clear policy describing the circumstances in which it will involve itself in advocacy, public policy and/or lobbying activities.

8.2 Members adopting advocacy and public policy positions shall have an organizationally-approved policy that defines the process for adopting and implementing such positions.

8.3 Advocacy, public policy, and lobbying activities by members shall be non-partisan (i.e. not associated with a specific political party) in nature, and shall conform with applicable U.S. non-profit law.

8.4. Activities intended to influence public policy in the U.S. or other countries shall be undertaken in accordance with the individual member organization's established policies, and within applicable laws.

8.5 In taking public policy positions, member organizations shall be informed and guided by public policy positions unanimously adopted by InterAction.

9.0 Implementation

9.1 Self-certification that an agency meets the high ethical Standards is required for membership in InterAction. Each applicant organization accepts responsibility for following these Standards. An organization which meets the InterAction Standards may refer in its promotional materials to this fact. InterAction will maintain and make available a current list of qualifying organizations.

9.2 Annual filing of the latest annual report, an audited financial statement, and a statement and checklist, by the Chair of the Board of Directors and/or the Chief Executive Officer of the organization, attesting that it meets the high ethical Standards of InterAction will be required and due December 31 of each year.

9.3 A Standards Committee shall be elected by the Board and shall consist of members of the InterAciton Board and recognized outside experts. The Standards Committee will review and recommend to the Board revisions in the Standards periodically.

9.4 The Standards Committee will receive and act on complaints about possible non-compliance. A complaint must be in writing and present the facts as known by the complainant. The organization concerned will have an opportunity to respond, and it is assumed the organization will cooperate. If an organization is not in compliance, it shall be given reasonable time to make a serious effort to be in compliance. The complaint and complaint process will be kept confidential. In an extreme case of non-compliance, an agency will be ineligible for membership. The Standards Committee will issue a report annually to the members.

9.5 The Standards covered in the Sections 1,2,3,4, and 5 became effective for membership starting January 1, 1994. Delay in the effective date of any specific Standard, or its application to a specific agency, may be made by vote of the Board of Directors.

9.6 The Board of Directors of InterAction may, from time to time, add to or change this set of Standards, subject to 2/3 approval by the members in attendance at a regular meeting of the Board of Directors and with appropriate notice.

9.7 InterAction maintains a Resource Center in its main office which contains a copy of all of the codes and standards developed by other organizations or coalitions, which are referred to in the InterAction Standards.

10.0 Guidelines

10.1 Guidelines represent Standards which the Board of Directors may, from time to time, promulgate as recommended , but not required Standards.


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