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Is That Your Raffle Prize to Keep?

The following is a guest post from Greg Wilson, CAE, director of finance and operations for the Sacramento Association of Realtors.

In Joan Eisenstodt, Jonathan May, and Michele Warholic's 2012 Annual Meeting & Expo session, "Shades of Gray: Crucial Conversations Around Ethical Quandaries," we were challenged with the dilemma of raffle prize winnings. The panel will tell you that the prizes won in various raffles this week belong to your association if in fact it was the association that paid your way. This was met with surprise and disappointment. After all what we were learning was that the Hawaiian vacay might not be ours to enjoy even if we beat the odds.

Vendors offer stuffed animals, mugs, whatever, in the hopes you will remember them when deciding on the next meeting location. By the way, the ASAE standards of conduct require objectivity and impartiality. A rubber wrist band might not sway a decision, but a Mercedes? Clearly a policy on gift and prize acceptance is needed at our individual associations.

Mine has such a policy and I wish I could say the dollar value is zero, but it is pegged at $25. That bothers me because what it tells staff is that gifts worth $24.25 have no influence on decision making.

In establishing a policy, I would recommend the following framework.

Set reasonable dollar values. Whether it is zero, $10, $25, or something else, decide what your staff, vendors, and members can live within. Do not set folks up to fail.

Model appropriate behavior. When you win an iPad, use it within the association, and put the free books on the library shelf for all to read.

Teach employees how to make decisions. Have conversations around objective decision making, intent, and avoiding conflicts of interest. This takes courage but it is possible.

Apply the policy uniformly. What is good for the iPad is good for the wine, mug, and car.

Educate in the round. Explain your policy to vendors, contractors, and members as well as staff. Doing so will foster a culture of transparency.

Again, all of our associations need to address the issue through a clear policy. The best approach is to have an ethics driven policy which defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior in general terms, while perhaps establishing a maximum dollar value. And then also creating a culture in which employees can ask themselves and be able to answer the difficult questions about influence peddling. Help staff to be aware of their duty to the association while endeavoring to avoid actual or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

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