- Conflicts of interest are quite common and can arise when your duty to act in the interests of your organisation crosses over with another interest you have – to another organisation you may be involved with or perhaps with a private interest you may have … like a business you run that may stand to gain from the decisions of your Committee or Board.
- Most times declaring conflicts of interest and not voting on or being involved in discussions on issues where a conflict of interest may exist is all you need to do to address them.
- Your organisation will most likely ask for conflicts to be declared and recorded at each meeting, based on the topics to be discussed at the meeting, and will likely have a procedure for handling conflicts of interest.
One of the key issues for the Committee or Board members is managing conflicts of interest. In your governance role, you are required to act in the best interests of your organisation. A conflict of interest can arise where another interest you have – say through involvement in another organisation – conflicts with your obligation to act in the best interest of the organisation on whose Committee you are serving. It is possible also that a conflict may arise when a decision you’re being asked to make could potentially deliver a personal benefit to you or someone related to you (i.e. such as employment or a contract for work). Your organisation will likely have policies that help guide you on how to act in those situations. It’s ok to have a conflict of interest – in fact, it is very common. It’s just not ok to be involved in a discussion or to vote on a matter where your other interests may apply.
Declaring a potential conflict allows you and your colleagues on your Committee or Board to be mindful of your other interests and to act appropriately to protect the interests of your organisation, following your organisation’s policies.
While conflicts of interest are common and can be routinely managed, if you think your other interests are regularly going to make it difficult for you to contribute to your Committee or Board, your Committee or Board role may not be a good fit. It’s good practice in every board meeting to ask if there are any conflicts to declare and record in the minutes any disclosed potential conflicts and who is present and voted on which items.
Having a potential conflict of interest doesn’t disqualify you from joining a Committee or Board but if it is likely to happen regularly you may want to think twice about the appropriateness of taking on that particular governance role.
A great way of exploring whether you have a potential conflict is to ask yourself whether an independent observer would think your decisions would be made solely in the best interests of the organisation.
Want more? ... check out these resources
Online article – Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission – 20 minute read
This is a pretty comprehensive overview of conflicts of interest and how to manage them from the ACNC.
Webinar – Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission – 1 hour watch
Ok grab the popcorn, sit back and watch this really well-explained webinar about conflicts of interest – with lots of clear examples and clear advice about how to handle them. Who said Governance wasn’t a Saturday night treat to look forward to?