Ethical dilemma discussion: what would you do?

Your club commits to covering airfare for a local high school student embarking on a yearlong Rotary Youth Exchange. Club members form three committees, each responsible for hosting a fundraising event to collect money that will pay for the student’s round trip international airfare. The first two events raise the targeted amount, but bad weather forces your club to cancel the third committee’s event, scheduled a week before the student’s flight must be booked. As a result, that committee requests that all club members split the remaining amount needed for the ticket purchase. You, along with a handful of other club members, are uncomfortable with this request.

What do you do?

Author: rotaryservice

The Rotary Service Connections blog helps Rotarians plan effective and inspired service projects. If you have questions, comments, or story recommendations, contact us at rotary.service@rotary.org

29 thoughts on “Ethical dilemma discussion: what would you do?”

  1. There is not enough information to design a plan. Ethically the club would have to find the money but there are various possibilities. Variables: how much money is needed, how many members in club, size of treasury, sponsors that might be approached For instance could treasury cover the shortfall and members work to raise money to repay the “loan”?

  2. I would continue and book the flight. The club is still responsible to raise the money. . I suggest they come up with a “team oriented” discussion that includes every member to make it happen. Why be petty?

  3. The first two committees raised the targeted amount. I am assuming that was their individual committees targeted goal. The third committee needs to do their fundraiser later, after the air fare is purchased. The Club treasurer could dispense from another account the funds and then replace the funds with the earnings from the third fundraiser afterwards, all thru journal entries. There is an obligation to send the student, and asking for additional funds from Club Members is not fair to them. Hopefully committee three had a contingency plan for weather built into their fundraising plan. If that plan had been followed, (like moving the event inside) there would be no need to cancel the event. Since it appears they had no contingency plan, the committee is still obligated to continue on with the event to raise their portion towards the student’s air fare.

  4. The ultimate responsibility for travel expenses lies with the student and his parents or guardians. The Club will reimburse them as funds are raised. The parents must be asked to provide the balance of the airfare as an unexpected expense.

    1. It is possibly not the right solution as there is no information on how much is remaining and if the parents have the ability to pay for the balance. I am in favour of fulfillment of the commitment of the Club. The Club members should discuss and find the way out – whether to advance the balance from the club treasury and pay back later from another fund raising or any other mutually agreed up on decision.

  5. I assume this was previously voted on and approved by the board and the club. Not knowing the clubs financial status make it difficult to make a recommendation. But I would ask that the board to cover the deficit amount from club funds with the understanding that an additional event would be held to reimburse the club. I would make the club aware of the situation and ask for donations if members felt so obliged. The club made an obligation to the student and must follow through.

  6. I am assuming that the selection to sponsor a student was taking into consideration financial ability or inability of parents to pay. What if this student’s family is not financially well off and the opportunity was given to a student who otherwise may not be able to go. Putting this last minute financial hardship on a family is really unfair to them since your club has agreed to pay for the trip. There should be no push back to parents or student because of a weather issue and cancellation of the fundraiser.

    1. At this point in the Program, the student and his parents have completed applications and interviews, and are well-aware of and accept their financial responsibilities.

  7. Also, Reduced airfare might be achieved by arranging travel through a consortium at Ohio-Erie Youth Exchange Program, Inc.
    -R/C of Spruce Pine, NC

  8. Club has committed to purchase of airfare. Club must make another plan to cover the balance of cost. Unilateral decision to request members to pay in the shortfall is incorrect. A more creative solution must be found.

    1. I don’t think it is “Fair” to expect a parent to come up with money that the Club has committed to pay. If the parent could pay for the air fare, then possibly they wouldn’t have applied for this project in the first place. Put yourself in the parent’s shoes. Would you feel too good about an organization that backs out part way of a commitment? Would you have the funds to pull out of the hat at the last moment? I wouldn’t have budgeted in my personal budget for this kind of mishap and then would I have to go borrow the money until the Club has a fundraiser to finish their commitment? It just doesn’t seem to work any way other than the Club finding the funds and then having their fundraiser later. It makes the Club look better and doesn’t impose the problem on the parent or individual Club members. The Club should borrow if necessary and repay later. There are endless possibilities to borrow even with Clubs in the same District.

      1. I suggest you, and several others here, review the rules and responsibilities of the extended Youth Exchange Program. Read them first, and obtain opinions that are backed with more knowledge. In truth, the Rotary Club in question WILL fulfill their responsibilities. And there will be ‘wheels down’ in the student’s foreign destination.

      2. Rena, I still agree with you regarding funding. For some reason, in this scenario, the club committed to do MORE than is normally required by Rotary International when participating in the Long Term Student Exchange Program. We are not asked to make a determination as to whether that was right or wrong–although I do think it’s a good thing when we do a little more good than the rules require and a little less bad than the rules proscribe. Rules establish parameters and are not meant to set a course along the straight and narrow which condemns people who vary a little right or left.

        In this case, the club in question made a commitment and it is their responsibility to follow through with their commitment. To be relevant in their community they have to do what they say they will do and walk the talk so to speak. It’s not right to change the rules in the middle of the stream. I hate cowards and manipulators who do that. That modus operandi is unethical in any business, club or person. Doing what you say you will is important.

  9. Club should meet its commitment from the club treasury if sufficient funds exist. Lacking sufficient funds, members should be asked to step up. In either case, a make up event should be scheduled as soon as practical with proceeds being credited to the club treasury or member statements respectively.

  10. I think the request is inappropriate in regards to asking everyone to pitch in to cover the final cost. I think it would be appropriate to ask people to help if they can and to whatever degree they can. One of the problems that develop from the type of request posited in the dilemma is that club leaders or planners will begin to use that means of backing up every project—if they run short of funds, go over budget, or have an unsuccessful fund raiser, then they will think they can always go back to the well and tax members to cover the shortfall. Here I think the concept of responsibility and accountability apply. As a leader of a club or family or any organization, the leader who makes a commitment for everyone in the group has to be prepared to make up the difference and carry a larger part of the load—if you can’t do that then you are not committed to leadership. There is risk in everything we do, but using others to finance or insure our own goals or plans is wrong. Sure, in the scenario above, the club, or club leaders, committed to supporting the high school student’s airfare and they must follow through to maintain credibility and do the right thing by the child. You can’t make pledges or promises without following through—that’s not who we are or who we should be. If the money is not in the treasury then the club leaders need to find a way to borrow it or loan it to the club until the club can have another fundraiser and pay it back. Not everyone in the club supports every endeavor but everyone supports something, usually something they are passionate about—we just have to find those things. Some can give more than others and that’s OK but expecting everyone to give the same as a condition of membership is wrong.

  11. I agree the club should stand by their committment and front that last third of the flight to be
    paid back to the club through restaging the cancelled fundraiser..
    Easy, simple – mission accomplished.

  12. This type of blog post is a wonderful way to challenge Rotarians to think through and develop a solution that is consistent with Rotary Core Values and our Ethics.

    In some situations, we don’t have all the facts, and must begin to make judgements and determinations in order to move a crisis toward resolution. It appears that the club/club board made a commitment to raise the funds to send this student (for whatever reason); and consequently has taken on the responsibility to ensure this student’s travel costs are covered for this youth exchange event. The first order of business is to get that ticket paid for and that student on the plane. Covering these expenses from the club treasury, or other means is a reasonable first approach. Reimbursing the treasury, members or the source of those funds would seem to be the next order of business and commitment of the club. Then, having a discussion to better understand the reasons why this happened and developing a process or procedure to ensure the club isn’t faced with future similar situations might be a good next step toward finalization.

  13. 1.Board can authorize release of funds for the deficit. Have the show later on and reimburse it.
    2. If the club does not have sufficient funds in reserve, individuals or groups can advance the money and get it reimbursed when the third event actually takes place.
    Under no circumstance should the club step back from what it has promised the student.

  14. If service is to be above self, if a commitment has been made to finance the airfare of a student, but due to bad weather the third committee’s fund raising event was cancelled, and a time constraint does not allow the committee to look for sponsors, and the Club treasurer indicates that the club does not have sufficient funds ,then I think that it is fair for the president of the Club to call upon club members to make a donation,in accordance to their financial strenght or capability in order to complete the airfare expenses, if we really want to be a gift to the world.. Clubs and their members will reap the benefits of their actions, because what you sow is what you will reap.The inner joy and growth of helping others offsets the loss of some money.

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