Nonprofit Ethics Cases

Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are held to higher moral standards. Because their social and community values associated with their missions, NPOs that commit unethical or illegal activities make us have more resentments towards them. Although the nonprofit sector incorporates all the values and failures of any other businesses and organizations, the public has entrusted these special types of organizations with a mandate to “do good and do it well.” 

In the MNA program, we believe that leadership and ethics are at the core of our learning and our dedicated careers for the social sector. Hence, our graduate students learn and reflect on the proper behaviors by analyzing unethical and illegal case studies and the reasons that brought such individuals and organizations to act against their public mandate.

The following are examples of the case studies we identify and analyze during our graduate studies. We share them with the public in the hope of promoting more ethical practices and avoid unethical and illegal pitfalls in our mission-driven works.

Unethical Case Studies 2018

  1. The Donald J. Trump Foundation: Morally Bankrupt Leadership by Valerie Hasbum & Gyra Chan

Our case study will examine the unethical behavior of the Donald J Trump Foundation and the impending lawsuit against members of the Trump family. The study will address the illegal use of foundation funds and the ethical implications surrounding a lack of transparency in foundation reporting. We will discuss the ways that this case study can help enhance our understanding of several topics relevant to class including foundation transparency, self-dealing transactions, board oversight, and unethical leadership. We will also share two videos related to the case that will provide a quick snapshot of the facts. From there we will ask several crucial questions about ethical behavior, the role of foundations in the nonprofit sector, and the lack of integrity in the current administration.

Case Study 1 Description
Case Study 1 Presentation

2. The Oxfam Sex Scandal: “A Lie has no Leg, but a Scandal has Wings” -Thomas Fuller by Grace Komarek-Meyer & Barbora Krisova

The Oxfam case study covers the organization’s reaction to sexual allegations of aid workers with aid recipients after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti under the leadership of Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s former head of operations in Haiti. The internal investigations led by the former head of Global safeguarding Helen Evans show sexual misconduct in not only Haiti
but numerous other places where the organization operated. However, the leadership did not take her findings into account and instead of confronting this problem, it tried to cover it up. This was
not until February 2018 when more whistleblowers spoke up and the case got the attention of the media that actions needed to be taken. The case study will chronologically describe the events that occurred and what actions Oxfam has taken to prevent this situation from happening again.

Case Study 2 Description
Case Study 2 Presentation

3. Using a Good Name for Self Gain: Pybrum and the Foundation for Harmony and Happiness by Michaela Nee & Jairo Javier Medina

In 1998, Steve Pybrum founded the Foundation for Harmony and Happiness (FFHH) as a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization in Santa Barbara, California with the stated purpose of conducting social research and counseling married couples with financial advice. Pybrum was primarily an accountant through his for-profit business Pybrum & Company CPAs that filed tax returns and offered legal support for clients. For 15 years, Pybrum was able to evade tax payments by documenting his personal income as a CPA into the FFHH, paying employees through the FFHH’s bank account, and making extravagant personal purchases in the name of his charity.
Pybrum’s years of tax evasion and misuse of nonprofit benefits for personal gain offer insights into the consequences that follow poor leadership and unethical choices, and the cruciality of keeping nonprofit leaders accountable for their actions in order to maintain the progress of mission-oriented activities of an organization.

Case Study 3 Description
Case Study 3 Presentation

4. Betraying the Trust of SDWR Clients by Marisela Aguina & Shoka Marefat

This case study examines the Services Dogs by Warren Retrievers Nonprofit organization controversy and a lawsuit that emerged in May 2018. SDWR was sued by Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring. SDWR and Warren (founder & ED) have violated the VCPA (Virginia consumer protection act) and the VSOC (Virginia Solicitation of Contributions) law, by misrepresenting to clients, or deceiving clients, about the Diabetic Alert Dog’s testing, training,
skills, abilities, and efficacy (Erin, R, 2018). All of the services that would be included in the cost of the dogs and how the dogs could be paid for. They also misrepresented to clients how long consumers would have to pay their balances due to their dogs and whether consumers could receive refunds or not. Finally, Warren also made specific misrepresentations about his military service and background as well as their partnership with JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) a charitable organization dedicated to funding type 1 diabetes research.

Case Study 4 Description
Case Study 4 Presentation

Unethical Case Studies 2017

  1. The Church at Pierce Creek and the Johnson Amendment: How the First Amendment Intersects with the Tax Code and Present Applications by Greg Justice and Kimberly Megna Yarnall; Download the Presentation of Case 1.
  2. Where’s the goodwill at Goodwill Omaha? by Brandon Jones and Robert Williams; Download the Presentation of Case 2.
  3. Embezzlement and Murder: An Examination of MidCentral Educational Cooperative (MCEC) and Gear Up by Nick Daher and Kia Harris; Download the Presentation of Case 3.
  4. The Gregarious Gregorys: Wounded Warriors Support Group, Central Coast Equine Rescue & Retirement by Amanda Tompkins & MNA Students 2017;
  5. UWA: Creating Lemonade out of Lemons: A Road to Rebuilding Trust. by Lense Eshete and Elizabeth Silva; Download the Presentation of Case 5.
  6. Feed The Children: Repeat Offenders: Illegal and/or Unethical? by John Calandra and Soo Kim; Download the Presentation of Case 6.
  7. Helpers Community Inc.: The Devil Wears Prada: Socialite is Served – With Justice by Beatrice Duncan, Alyssa Perez, Jenny Shen; Download the Presentation of Case 7.
  8. Reynolds’ fraudulent cancer charities by Wendy Lee and Geoffrey Johnson; Download the Presentation Case 8
  9. The Downfall of the Vanguard Public Foundation by Jackie Downing & Stephanie McNally. Download the Presentation of Case 9.
  10. Families for Excellent Schools: Deception and Political Malpractice by Hayley Walker and Kyle Pate; Download the Presentation of Case 10.
  11. Wounded Warrior Project: Using Veteran Pain for Executive Gain  by Alexa Davidson, Valdeir Faria; Download the Presentation of Case 11.
  12. Where did the money go? $500 million raised for Haiti after 2010 earthquake, 6 homes built so far. by Sascha Rosemond and Kathryn Luna; Download the Presentation of Case 12.

– Educating Social Sector Leaders Since 1983 –

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