Why Have A Conflict of Interest Policy?

October 9, 2020

Part of Highwire Improv’s series ‘Important Stuff Most People Find Boring’

The internet is surprisingly full with websites and forums discussing conflict-of-interest policies for non-profit organizations (like Highwire Improv).  There are three reasons for this:

  1. The IRS requires non-profit organizations to have a conflict-of-interest policy.
  2. Legal things are detailed and complicated.
  3. Most people don’t want to deal with that so they copy/paste the IRS’s example policy and use that, and then get shocked when they actually need the policy.  It turns out that thinking about important, ambiguous, situations before they happen is a good idea!

Like many things associated with non-profit policy, the conflict-of-interest policy’s official purpose is to provide legal protection to the organization.  In practice, it also benefits the organization and those who are part of it by:

  • Making it clear to board members, staff, and community members what a conflict-of-interest is (both legally, and in the eyes of the community).
  • Giving confidence to donors that their money will be appropriately used (which also makes it more likely the people will donate).
  • Additionally giving confidence to community members that those with organizational power won’t use that power to advance themselves or others in non-financial ways
  • Remember a couple of paragraphs ago when I said most people copy and paste the IRS’s example policy?  Well… that’s where we started too – but we didn’t stop there (and we’ll never stop)!   The IRS example policy is actually a helpful starting point to make sure we have our legal obligations covered – then we sprinkle some improv magic on top of it to make it just right for Highwire Improv!

What will Highwire Improv do differently:

  • We cover conflict-of-interest above and beyond financial gain – there are other important currencies in the improv community (like stage time) that must be considered.
  • In alignment with our mission, values, and ethics, we cover disclosure above and beyond the typical policy, utilizing transparent meeting minutes wherever possible.

Here’s a link to the policy itself, also available from our Policies page!

Read more!