Our Guiding Ethics
The Ikoku Charitable Trusts and The Ikoku Foundations were founded by Alvan Azinna Chibuzo Ikoku with two sources of inspiration in mind. First, a history of service, education, and transformative work — exemplified in the careers of Prof Chinyere and Dr Chinelo Ikoku — that illustrates the ways peoples of varied African descent have contributed to the material, cultural, and intellectual conditions of modern life in Africa as well as the Americas, Asia, Australasia, and Europe. Second, an equally long and increasingly recognized history of difficulties for those very same peoples — who nevertheless maintain an unyielding, though deeply informed belief that the betterment of their own human condition will foster the betterment of those living with and around them, will improve the wider societies in which they reside, and will enhance the futures of the most regularly underserved, marginalized and disenfranchised in their communities.
For this reason, our guiding ethics take as their fundamental basis the most robust conceptions of respect, humanity, human rights, 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 code of ethics to follow below:
Personal and Professional Integrity. To act with honesty, integrity, and openness in all dealings as representatives of the Trusts. The Trusts shall promote a working environment that values respect, fairness, and integrity.
Mission. To have a clearly stated mission and purpose in pursuit of the public good. All programs shall support that mission and all who work for or on behalf of the Trusts shall understand and be loyal to that mission and purpose. The mission shall be responsive to the constituency and communities served by the Trusts and be of value to the society at large.
Governance. To have an active governing body that is responsible for setting the Trusts’ strategic directions as well as oversight of its finances, operations, and policies.
Responsible Stewardship. To manage all donated assets and other property both responsibly and prudently, as delineated 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. To hold independence to be crucial to the fulfillment of the Trusts’ founding mission and charitable purposes.
Nongovernmental and Nonpartisan Nature. To hold nongovernmental and nonpartisan status of associated entities to be not simply a matter of adherence to federal and international tax law, but also central to efforts to promote the public good across the complex states and communities that constitute Africa, its global diasporas, and the shared societies in which the Trusts’ communities live.
Privacy and Confidentiality. To foreground the central importance of privacy, in the most robust conceptions of respect, humanity, dignity, and civil liberties that inspired the Trusts’ founding. And to consider the privacy of confidential information to be essential to the achievement of charitable purposes, permitting no violation of privacy that is either unlawful or without prior written consent, and no access to, use of, or disclosure of any confidential information that is either unlawful or without the prior written consent of the original owner of the confidential information.
Openness and Disclosure. To also dutifully provide comprehensive and timely information to the public, particularly to the communities served by the Trusts. To be responsive in a timely manner to reasonable requests for information. And to have information fully, accurately, and honestly reflect policies and practices.
Inclusiveness and Diversity. To maintain a founding policy of promoting inclusiveness, and to make sure that boards, committees, leadership, staff, and volunteers reflect the diversity of the communities the Trusts serve.
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. To regularly review program effectiveness and have mechanisms to incorporate lessons learned into future programs.
Legal Compliance. To remain knowledgeable of and comply with all laws, regulations, and applicable international conventions.