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Our Money and Our Mission -- The New Policy "Code of Ethics: Funding"

Rachel O'Leary and Carmen Vandenabeele
Co-Chairs Bylaws Committee
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 1, January-February-March 2007, pp. 23-24.

"Our Area Conference is going to be fun! But I'm worried about the numbers. What if we don't get enough registrations to break even?"

"We could ask local firms for sponsorship, and we could have an exhibit room...."

"What about selling advertising space in the program booklet?"

"I'm not sure about that. How do we decide if the firm is suitable? What happens if an organization we don't think is compatible asks for exhibit space?"

"We want it to bring in money, so that we can fund ongoing education for Leaders."

"We certainly can't afford to lose money!"

Conversations similar to this one take place in many not for profit organizations, including LLL. Leaders work hard to safeguard the reputation and integrity of LLLI when planning activities, including funding. This new policy is a tool to assist Leaders and employees to find sources of funding for LLL work.

When decisions are made about funding for LLL activities, we use discernment and think about how our decisions affect others. The Code of Ethics: Funding policy provides a framework for these decisions. Use of the policy will ensure that LLLI and all parts of LLL can continue to work on the LLLI mission and present LLLI philosophy, without allowing our funding sources to dilute or distort what we say and do.

We drafted the policy after discussion within the Code of Ethics group on the Community Network (CN), and with input also from the Funds from Companies? CN group. We sent drafts out for consultation to Leaders and groups of Leaders working on funding issues in their parts of the world. We received many comments and requests for clarification and we took them into account in the final draft. We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to the drafts. We clarified the wording and thought more about each part. When we brought the improved draft to the LLLI Board of Directors, we were confident that it had widespread support. Thank you!

Variety of funding sources

A variety of funding sources and types leads to greater financial security and stability. Diversity will result in less dependency on any one source (for example, a yearly grant) or funder (for example, a commercial advertiser) or type of funding (for example, a conference). What sources of income are available to not for profit organizations in your part of the world? Some Groups and other parts of LLL access grants from charitable foundations or from local government. Some rely on memberships and donations. Others are involved in relationships with commercial companies. (For details on various kinds of commercial relationships, and their benefits and pitfalls, see "Commercial Relationships" in LEAVEN Jul-Aug-Sept 2006, p.50.) The Code of Ethics: Funding policy challenges each one of us to seek more varied funding sources. The stability of any part of LLL strengthens the whole.

Sharing our learning

This new policy requires us to learn about the source of any funding before we agree to accept it. Huge amounts of information are available now on the Internet; we need to know what kind of information we are looking for and it certainly would help if we knew where to find it! In general, we want to know if this relationship (between the funding source and LLL) is suitable for us -- will it help or harm our organization? The Code of Ethics: Funding helps us to narrow down our areas of search.

One of the major criteria for acceptance of funding from a commercial source is respect of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. If an organization profits from undermining breastfeeding -- and this undermining can be very subtle -- their aims are incompatible with ours. You can find out more about these issues in articles by Norma Escobar: "Implementation of the WHO International Code" in LEAVEN Feb-Mar 2006, pp. 14-15, and "Should we go to the Fair" in LEAVEN Jul-Aug-Sept 2006, p.70.

Artificial feeding companies may seek to influence mothers' decisions through their health workers -- volunteers included. The World Health Assembly recognized this potential conflict of interest in its resolution 49.15 - see www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?art_id=65&iui=1. LLLI fully supports these resolutions as well as the International Code (see www.lalecheleague.org/leaderpages/PSRt.html#4. Information about International Code violations by artificial feeding companies is available on the Internet at www.ibfan.org/english/codew00.html.

The Community Network makes it easy to share information about the activities of companies or other funding organizations worldwide. We have begun a discussion group and started to stock the library -- see Fund-Info-Exchange in the Leader to Leader section of the Community Network. We hope you will take advantage of this resource.

Why include parent and subsidiary companies?

Subsidiary companies and parent companies share the bottom line of their income and expenditures and their accounting systems -- their monies all go into and come out of the same "pot." Here is an example: LLL of Somewhere decides to accept an advertisement for carbonated water. The carbonated water manufacturer is owned by another company, which makes formula and markets it in ways that make it difficult for women to breastfeed. Because they see the advertisement in their trusted LLL magazine or Web site, more families buy the carbonated water. This means that LLL of Somewhere would be helping the formula company make a profit. Aside from helping the formula company, acceptance of the advertisement from the subsidiary of the formula company (the carbonated water manufacturer) has the potential to damage the reputation of LLL worldwide. Ouch! When we follow the prompts of the Code of Ethics: Funding policy, we will not have to worry about such damage.

Consultation for health-related issues

This caused discussion both within the drafting group and amongst those who commented on the drafts. Those commenting thought this point to be important, since we are concerned about health for mothers and babies. Leaders and employees are sometimes called upon to make difficult decisions about advertisements and exhibits from organizations involved with health. The policy requires that we talk together on these important points -- not to ask permission, but to discuss all the implications of each decision. The Code of Ethics: Funding policy gives us ways of consulting, for our use.

Locally, Leaders working within their Areas and Affiliates and other groupings can decide on their consultation group. Who has expertise on health? Professional Liaison Leaders will probably be involved. Who can be objective? Someone who does not depend financially on the decision -- maybe your support person. However, if your support person is hoping to fund part of her conference registration or increase her Group Library thanks to funding from this exhibit or advertisement, she cannot be truly objective. If the Leader who supports you is too involved with the decision, whom else could you ask to give clarity? Is there an email group or a CN group that could help? Would it be helpful to set up a consultation group for these health topics to use every time, or do you prefer to ask a different group each time? These are decisions that can be made locally. The LLLI Board of Directors would like to know how you decide to implement this policy and how it works for you. We need your feedback!

We are pleased to have drawn together the wisdom contained in many previous LLLI policies and to have it all in one place now. We are pleased to provide ethical principles for our funding efforts. There are many sources of funding that are compatible with the LLLI mission and philosophy. We all want to protect our mission and philosophy and we know we need funding to be more effective in helping mothers breastfeed their babies. We hope that this new tool will help Leaders and employees to feel confident as we work together to draw in financial support for our work while safeguarding our mission and philosophy.

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