Conflict of Interest Policy
Last updated October 1, 2017.
These policies include wording from templates at Nonprofit Conflict of Interest: A 3-Dimensional View. Neither the publisher nor author of the article is affiliated with Altonimbus Entertainment, nor has reviewed or endorsed this policy.
Table of contents
- Goal and purpose
- Review and mitigation
- Examples of potential conflicts of interest
- Examples of things not usually needing disclosure
- Grandfathering from disclosure
The standard of behavior at Altonimbus Entertainment is that all staff, volunteers, and board members scrupulously recognize, disclose, and work to mitigate conflicts of interest between the interests of Altonimbus Entertainment on one hand, and personal, professional, and business interests on the other. This includes potential and actual conflicts of interest, as well as perceptions of conflicts of interest.
The purposes of this policy are to protect the integrity of Altonimbus Entertainment's decision-making process, to enable our attendees, staff, and members of our community to have confidence in our integrity, and to protect the integrity and reputations of volunteers, staff, and board members.
We recognize that potential and actual conflicts of interest are very common in community and fan-driven organizations such as ours, and are a part of having close beneficial ties throughout our communities. We handle this by scrupulously recognizing and disclosing potential conflicts. When possible, we attempt to turn "conflicts of interest" into "benefits from interest" by taking advantage of the connections that a close community provides, and setting up a process in advance to mitigate potential problems from any conflict.
This policy is meant to supplement good judgment, and staff should respect its spirit as well as its wording.
A conflict of interest is a situation where, as a staff member:
- You have a personal interest (including financial, family, romantic, business, or role in an organization) which may influence your decision-making in your role for Altonimbus; or
- You have duties of loyalty to both this organization and another organization which conflict with each other.
An interest in another organization includes being an owner (sole or significant part), partner, board member, executive decision-maker, influential donor, significant voting power holder, or the same in another organization closely tied to it. In some cases, it may include being an employee, contractor, or staff (paid or unpaid).
A situation that would be a conflict of interest for a given person is also a conflict of interest if it instead involves that person's close family member, romantic partner, business partner, or somebody in that person's reporting chain in another organization.
A conflict of interest is evaluated based on the "whole picture" and what a reasonable person at arm's length would perceive, not technicalities.
All staff members are expected to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, or significant changes in any potential conflicts of interest, and defer or recuse from making decisions related to the conflict until approval is given.
Staff members applying for a position are expected to disclose any potential conflicts of interest that may be created by holding the position, including elected positions.
When disclosing a conflict of interest, disclose to the staff member you report to. Board members should disclose to the board. If disclosing prior to an election and the potential conflict exists by virtue of holding the position, then disclose to the electing body, as soon as possible prior to the election.
When a conflict is disclosed to a supervisory staff member, that staff member will report it further up their management chain if it's needed to adequately address the situation.
A similar process may be followed if a conflict of interest concern is raised by a third party. An individual raising a concern should report it in the same way as if they were disclosing their own potential conflict of interest.
When reviewing a conflict of interest, the staff member(s) or board should record the disclosure for future reference and review. In some cases, the conflict can be easily and simply resolved through a quick discussion, or an offer to recuse on a particular issue. In other cases, there should be more detailed discussion and a written mitigation plan.
The following are possible outcomes of a conflict of interest discussion:
- The conflict may be too great to be allowed at all.
- The conflict is allowed, but a designated person will be appointed who will handle the specific duties that would be imputed by the conflict. For example: Appointing a different staff or board member to make a decision on a contract, or appointing a person other than a staff member's normal manager who can review their performance or respond to complaints.
- A staff member will be required to be recused from discussion or decision-making on certain matters.
- A board member or committee member may be restricted from participation, votes, and/or accessing minutes or records relating to a particular issue.
- A decision may be made to communicate the details of the mitigation plan to additional staff members who may be impacted (for example, people who report to the staff member).
The specific process of discussing, creating, and carrying out recusal or a mitigation plan is flexible and should be adapted as needed to serve the spirit and goals of this policy, as there are many unforeseen circumstances that may occur.
Conflict of interest decisions are set on a case-by-case basis, but should generally follow the standards set by previous similar circumstances.
- Altonimbus is considering paying a vendor for goods or services, but a staff member is an employee there.
- A staff member helps run a contest, but their romantic partner wants to enter.
- A staff member helps decide applicants for the Exhibits Hall or Panels, but a family member applies.
- Altonimbus is considering spending money in a manner that benefits both the organization and a staff member personally, such as travel for outreach, or software that they will use on their personal computer for both convention and personal work.
- A staff member is considering hiring a romantic partner in a position reporting to them.
- Two board members are in a romantic relationship.
- A staff member routinely talks to representatives of other fan conventions, but they also hold a staff position in one of them.
- An executive-level staff member is also an executive-level staff member or board member in another fan convention.
- A staff member holds a similar position in another organization where confidentiality obligations may conflict.
- A staff member holds a similar position in another organization in which opportunities based on inside information may need to be pursued for only one organization or the other, leading to a conflict.
- Altonimbus is considering a contract with another organization, but a staff member considers undercutting the process and pursuing the contract personally, relying on inside information.
These situations can be conflicts of interest, but they are not automatically considered to be. Staff only need to disclose these if there are additional circumstances such as those described above. Examples:
- Your employer
- Being staff for another convention
- Membership in a social or advocacy organization
- Having a certain political opinion that influences your decision-making
We recognize that discussion about conflict of interest policy may be heated or even feel like it is targeting a particular individual. To help avoid this, we declare it to be part of the policy and culture of this organization that we grandfather in exceptions for specific individuals when we amend this conflict of interest policy (or when we pass it for the first time).
The decision to grandfather a specific individual's conflict should be based on whether the conflict existed in substantially similar form, or was being actively contemplated in that form, at the time the policy was changed or enacted. Sometimes this is difficult to tell, so we should review each situation with regard to what a reasonable person at arm's length would feel happened.
The policy of grandfathering doesn't avoid the need for disclosure, discussion, or mitigation of conflicts (with one exception noted in the next section). Rather, it means that when a specific conflict would otherwise be something we wouldn't allow if it happened in the future, we err on continuing to allow it if we allowed it in the past.
This policy also recognizes a special form of grandfathering from disclosure. There are certain situations where you may feel even just a disclosure is an unfair coercion of your privacy, such as about a romantic relationship. Therefore, you may be excused from disclosure if all of the following are true:
- The policy was enacted for the first time, or amended, in a way that requires you to disclose a situation that the earlier wording wouldn't have;
- For any of the positions you now hold, the enactment or change happened after you applied for that position or (if an elected position) announced your candidacy after the official open of nominations, for this convention year only;
- The disclosure would expose private information that can't be readily found online by the public; and
- You sincerely believe that this disclosure would burden your personal privacy, the personal privacy of a romantic partner, or the personal privacy of a close family member; or
- The disclosure would violate a legal obligation you entered into prior to your acceptance of this conflict of interest policy.
If you make use of this exception, the burden to exercise your best judgment is all on you, and you still otherwise need to act to further the spirit and goals of this policy and your obligations to the organization.
Once an amended or enacted policy is in place through the next appointment or election of your position, this "grandfathering from disclosure" section no longer applies for that particular conflict of interest. You'll then need to make a choice between accepting a position for the subsequent year or making the disclosure.