Our Guiding Ethics

Introduction. The Ikoku Charitable Trusts and The Ikoku Foundations have two founding sources of inspiration. First, a long history of service, education, and transformative work — as exemplified in Prof Chinyere and Dr Chinelo Ikoku — that has been central to the ways peoples of varied African descent have contributed to the material, cultural, and intellectual conditions of modern life in Africa and societies in Asia, Europe, and especially the Americas. Second, a coeval, equally long, and increasingly recognized and understood history of difficulties for those very same peoples — who have nevertheless exemplified an unyielding, though deeply informed optimism and belief in the quest to reveal that the betterment of their human condition also fosters the betterment of many living around them, the societies in which they live, and the futures of the most regularly marginalized and disenfranchised. For this reason, our guiding ethics take as their fundamental basis the most robust conceptions of respect, humanity, and civil liberties, including and beyond what the law has protected and provided for, as we fulfill the duties and responsibilities implicit in our twin mottos: to serve the public interest in Africa and its global diasporas; and to account for the past while ensuring a shared and just future

Our commitment to this basis for ethics is strong and we ensure that our boards, executive leadership, staff, volunteers, and committees are selected, nourished, and retained in keeping with it, and that any decisions or actions taken on behalf of the Trusts and Foundations by our boards, leadership, staff, volunteers, and committees are made free of any violations or activities that run counter to its ethos.

The above commitment characterizes our unique place and membership within the nonprofit and philanthropic community, where entities are consistently called upon to adhere to the highest ethical and legal standards: because it is the right and good thing to do and because public trust in such performance is the bedrock of its legitimacy. We are attentive to the fact that donors and volunteers support charitable organizations because they trust them to carry out their missions, to be good stewards of their resources, and to uphold rigorous standards of conduct in the execution of these fiduciary duties. Yet we also know that organizations are, at base, people, and it is up to the people of the Ikoku Trusts and Foundations ― boards and committees, executive leaders, staff, and volunteers ― to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to the core values of respect, humanity, civil liberties, integrity, honesty, fairness, inclusion, and responsibility as they carry out the work of these Trusts and Foundations.

These shared histories, values, and concerns form the guiding basis for the more detailed code of ethics to follow below:

Personal and Professional Integrity. All of our board trustees and directors, executive leaders, staff, committees, and volunteers act and will continue to act with honesty, integrity, and openness in all their dealings as representatives of the Ikoku Trusts and Foundations. The Ikoku Trusts and Foundations promote a working environment that values respect, fairness, and integrity.

Responsible Stewardship. We at the Ikoku Trusts and Foundations manage all donated assets and other property both responsibly and prudently. Central to the collective fiduciary responsibility outlined in our By-Laws and overarching Declaration of Trust is the duty to ensure that our nonprofit entities continue to exist in perpetuity, continue to have the assets to carry out their shared charitable purposes during that time, and that they do so while being independent, nongovernmental, nonpartisan, and nonreligious in nature. To this end, we dutifully adhere to the restrictions outlined in Article 1 of our By-Laws. And we also adopt and maintain the carefully monitored total-returns portfolio strategy, restricted spending policy, and especially prudent and exceptional debt policy outlined in the Declaration of Trust. This commitment includes maintaining the following duties:

  • spending a reasonable percentage of our annual budgets on programs in pursuance of our mission;
  • spending an adequate amount on administrative expenses to ensure effective accounting systems, internal controls, competent staff, and other expenditures critical to professional management;
  • compensating staff, and any others who may receive compensation, reasonably and appropriately;
  • ensuring that our programs soliciting funds have reasonable fundraising costs, recognizing the variety of factors affecting such costs;
  • ensuring that we not accumulate operating funds excessively;
  • ensuring that we prudently draw from endowment funds consistent with donor intent and our own charitable purposes;
  • ensuring that all spending practices and policies are fair, reasonable and appropriate for fulfilling our mission; and
  • ensuring all financial reports are factually accurate and complete in all material respects.

Independence. At the Ikoku Trusts and Foundations, we consider independence to be crucial to the fulfillment of our founding mission and charitable purposes. It permits us to examine and help solve intractable social problems that have long burdened societies, governments, and other institutions. It allows us to more clearly and directly ascertain, serve, and inform the public interest, particularly where it does not overlap with that of major governmental or institutional entities. And we furthermore believe that such independence is central to a fundamental understanding of the role of philanthropy: to address issues that have little chance of being adequately supported or funded via the normal political process, or via the normal operations of other major institutions, even when the communities and global publics we serve repeatedly call for such attention. To this end, we hold independence to be a primary quality of our work — and of the sustained assistance we do provide to governments and institutions in promoting the public good.

Nongovernmental and Nonpartisan Nature. For the above reasons, our status as nongovernmental and nonpartisan entities is not simply a matter of adherence to federal and international tax law. It is central to our efforts to promote the public good across the complex states and communities that constitute Africa, its global diasporas, and the shared societies in which we live. It helps us do such necessary work exactly where governmental, political, corporate, and other institutional entities have found it most difficult. And we believe strongly that the efficacy and benefit of our philanthropic contributions are only increased when we do not replicate the efforts and impasses of such entities, but rather complement them, work counter to or separate from them, where needed, and ultimately improve the human condition for peoples of varied African descent and the regularly marginalized and disenfranchised. To this end, the Trusts and Foundations will also be nonreligious and private in their constitution and operation, having neither members nor shareholders.

Privacy and Confidentiality. We at the Ikoku Charitable Trusts and Foundations understand the central importance of privacy in the most robust conceptions of respect, humanity, and civil liberties that inspired our founding, that underwrite our shared histories, values, and concerns, and that form the fundamental basis of our guiding ethics. We especially consider the privacy of confidential information (that of our leadership, employees, donors, applicants, volunteers) to be essential to our operations and the achievement of our charitable purposes. To that end, no one belonging to our boards, leadership, staff, committees, or communities of volunteers and donors shall unlawfully access, permit the use of, disclose, or permit the disclosure to any third party of any confidential information, either during such person’s tenure with us or at any time before or thereafter, pursuant to any deed of gift or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the original owner of the confidential information. And no one in our community shall be permitted to access, disclose, or use confidential information in a manner that violates privacy laws in California, the United States, or other nations, as they now exist or as they may hereafter be amended.

Openness and Disclosure. And yet we at the Trusts and Foundations will also dutifully provide comprehensive and timely information to the public, particularly to the communities we serve, and we will be responsive in a timely manner to reasonable requests for information. All information about the Trusts and Foundations will fully and honestly reflect our policies and practices. Basic informational data about the Trusts and Foundations, such as the Form 990, reviews and compilations, and audited financial statements will be posted on our website or otherwise be made available to the public. All solicitation materials will accurately represent our policies and practices and will reflect the dignity of our program beneficiaries. And all financial, organizational and program reports will be complete and accurate in all material respects.

Inclusiveness and Diversity. We at the Trusts and Foundations maintain a founding policy of promoting inclusiveness, and we make sure that our boards, committees, leadership, staff, and volunteers reflect the diversity of the communities we serve in order to enrich and ensure our programmatic effectiveness. We will furthermore continue to take genuine and meaningful steps to promote such inclusiveness in our hiring, retention, promotion, board and committee recruitment, and in the communities we intend to serve in perpetuity.

Fundraising. Where we raise funds from the public or from institutions, the Trusts and Foundations respect donor rights as follows:

  • to be informed of the mission of the Trusts and Foundations, the way the resources will be used, and their capacity to use donations effectively for intended purposes;
  • to be informed of the identity of those serving on the Boards of the Trusts and Foundations, and to expect the Boards to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities, and to have access to our most recent financial reports;
  • to receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition, unless otherwise instructed;
  • to be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by the law;
  • to be assured their gifts will be used for their intended purposes, except when those purposes are not in accordance with our By-Laws;
  • to expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature;
  • to be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the Trusts and Foundations or hired solicitors; and
  • to feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.

Grant-making. Where we make grants to partner or external entities or individuals, the Trusts and Foundations attend to the following duties:

  • to maintain constructive relations with grant-seekers based on mutual respect and shared charitable goals;
  • to communicate clearly and on a timely basis with potential grantees;
  • to treat grant-seekers and grantees fairly and with respect;
  • to respect the expertise of grant-seekers in their fields of knowledge;
  • to seek to understand and respect the organizational capacity and needs of grant-seeking organizations; and
  • to respect the integrity of the mission of grant-seeking organizations.

Program Evaluation. We regularly review program effectiveness and have mechanisms to incorporate lessons learned into future programs. The Trusts and Foundations are committed to further improving program and organizational effectiveness and will continue to develop mechanisms to promote learning from our activities and from our fields of charitable investment. The Trusts and Foundations will therefore remain responsive to changes in such fields and especially responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.

Legal Compliance. The Trusts and Foundations shall remain knowledgeable of and comply with all laws, regulations, and applicable international conventions, knowing that such adherence to the law will be considered the minimum standard of expected behavior. We will, however, endeavor to do more in our work on behalf of the Trusts and Foundations, often going beyond legal requirements to make sure that what we do is matched by the public’s understanding of the detailed nature, social significance, and hopefully enduring benefit of that work.

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