Skip to Content

Code of Ethics

Since its inception in 1992, The California Wellness Foundation has pursued its mission — to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention — in accordance with the fundamental principles of transparency, equity and fairness.

This section explains, in a question-and-answer format, how Cal Wellness adheres to its fundamental principles in setting grantmaking, personnel and investment policies. We hope this section will give you a fuller understanding of the safeguards we put in place to ensure that we are accountable, ethical and responsible in our stewardship of grant dollars.

Does Cal Wellness have a code of ethics?

Yes. Cal Wellness embraces a set of core values and puts them into practice in its dealings with the public and with professional colleagues, as we work to improve the health of the people of California.

Our work is also guided by policies that ensure all our activities reflect our commitment to fiduciary responsibility, accountability, transparency, diversity and ethical behavior.

These organizational principles and their associated policies are set out in several documents developed during the last ten years for our staff and Board members, including our Board Manual, Employee Handbook and Policies and Procedures Manual. Much of the information in this fact sheet comes directly from these sources.

What are Cal Wellness’ core values?

  • RESPECT: Demonstrating consideration for each other and our constituencies. Listening to and honoring different perspectives.
  • INTEGRITY: Demonstrating honesty, fulfilling commitments and keeping our word.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: Being responsible for our actions and adhering to Cal Wellness’ mission and values.
  • EQUITY: Demonstrating fairness, impartiality and justice in all phases of our work.
  • STEWARDSHIP: Acknowledging that the resources of the Foundation are a public trust and are to be used responsibly and for their intended purpose.
  • EXCELLENCE: Demonstrating a strong work ethic and developing high-quality products.
  • LEARNING: Demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning as individuals and as an organization.
  • TRUST: Demonstrating acceptance and respect for differences while embracing and practicing organizational values.

How does Cal Wellness avoid conflicts of interest?

Cal Wellness has adopted a conflict of interest policy for its Board of Directors and staff, which mandates:

  1. responsibility for awareness of actual or perceived conflicts of interest;
  2. disclosure of any conflicts prior to any funding considerations; and
  3. assurance that reviews and decisions for grant approvals are based on objective consideration by disinterested parties with no vested interest in the outcomes.

Board members and exempt employees are required to fill out a Disclosure of Interest form and update it on an annual basis. Board members are required to recuse themselves from voting on any grant that poses a potential conflict of interest.

Employees are allowed to serve on boards of directors or committees of other organizations outside Cal Wellness, but in cases of potential conflict of interest, membership requires approval from the president and CEO.

How is compensation for staff and Board members determined?

Compensation and benefits for staff and Board members are determined on the basis of benchmarks derived from the compensation policies of peer organizations with a similar asset size. These benchmarks are researched by independent consultants every three years. The Board of Directors reviews the consultants’ reports and sets compensation policies accordingly.

Every year, the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors reviews independent reports on nonprofit salary increases. Based on this review and other factors, the committee recommends a salary pool increase for approval by the Board.

The Board’s Executive Committee reviews the president and CEO’s compensation annually, based on reports from independent consultants. The president and CEO’s performance is also reviewed on an annual basis. The president and CEO recuses himself or herself from these deliberations.

Staff performance is appraised twice a year by a performance review that tracks progress toward performance goals for each position with Cal Wellness. Staff members also share a common goal: “To demonstrate a positive attitude by practicing the Foundation's core values through respectful interaction with all staff and constituents.”

To ensure proper checks and balances, a staff member’s immediate supervisor and a second-level supervisor sign off on performance reviews. Staff who receive satisfactory reviews are eligible for annual salary increases, when they are available.

How does Cal Wellness ensure that its grantmaking process is equitable and fair?

Cal Wellness’ resources are insufficient to fund all the grant requests submitted each year. Accordingly, we have developed a process for funding reviews and decision -making that takes into account the critical need for effectiveness, efficiency and objectivity.

Staff are guided by Cal Wellness’ principles and goals, as well as by the priorities for funding set by the Board. Staff also consider the geographic regions served by the applicants. Specific policies are in place to ensure that grant dollars are allocated equitably throughout the entire state.

We provide specific guidelines to assist each applicant that has been invited to submit a full proposal. Staff conducts a site visit as part of the review process. To ensure thorough scrutiny, staff may request a review of the proposal by an outside expert. We call this process “due diligence.”

If a program director determines that an organization is a candidate for funding, it is recommended for submission to the quarterly grants meeting. If executive staff concur with the recommendation, the proposal is presented to the Board for approval. The Board reviews the recommended grants and votes on them.

How are grants monitored?

Once a grant has been approved by the Board and a grant agreement letter has been signed, a structured monitoring process begins.

Grantees are required to submit brief annual reports that follow a prescribed format for describing progress toward objectives and itemizing expenditures. Midway through the grant period, all grantees have at least one conversation with Cal Wellness’ program staff, either in person or on the phone. Grantees may also receive an “exit interview” at the close of the grant.

Thirty days after the end of the award period, the grantee sends a final report that describes the results of the grant and presents a final tally of expenditures. Once the final report has been received, staff complete a closeout report. The Board receives a summary of this report.

Under what circumstances can a grant be rescinded?

A grant may be rescinded if the grant funds have not been expended as specified in the grant agreement letter, or for material failure to comply with the terms of the grant, including failure to submit required progress reports. Because such a decision has serious consequences, the procedure for rescinding a grant involves careful documentation, review by executive staff and legal counsel, and an appeals process.

How does Cal Wellness measure the effectiveness of its grantmaking?

Central to the Cal Wellness' conception of stewardship is a commitment to hold ourselves accountable to high standards regarding the quality of our work and the effectiveness of our grantmaking. We expect our grantees to hold themselves to a similarly high standard of performance.

Our expectations are tempered by an awareness of the complex task of evaluating the kinds of programs we fund, as well as by the trade-offs involved in determining the appropriate funding level for those activities.

We have commissioned evaluations of all of our former initiatives, many of which can be found in our Resources section. Our Reflections series shares lessons learned on a variety of philanthropic topics. Additionally, at the end of each grant, program staff write a close-out report that assesses the overall effectiveness of a grantee’s performance, a summary of which is reported to the Board.

These efforts enable Cal Wellness to assess on an ongoing basis to what extent its grantmaking is achieving the mission of improving the health of the people of California.

How does Cal Wellness evaluate its relationship with grantees?

Approximately every three years, Cal Wellness conducts a Grants Program Survey. Grant applicants are asked how they heard about Cal Wellness, how accessible and useful they find its materials and information, how well they were treated by the staff and how Cal Wellness could improve its philanthropic activities.

The most recent survey was conducted by the National Health Foundation and published in 2014. A report of its findings was shared with the public and made available on our website. Questionnaires for the survey were mailed or emailed to every organization that received and/or applied for funding from Cal Wellness in 2013.

How does Cal Wellness promote inclusiveness in hiring, retention, promotion and Board recruitment, and among the constituencies served?

Given the diversity of California’s population, Cal Wellness seeks to engage individuals on its Board and staff who are representative of that diversity and committed to incorporating the values of pluralism and inclusiveness into every aspect of their work. We also seek to fund organizations that embrace those values in their mission and activities.

Our commitment to diversity is shaped by the conviction that all segments of society benefit from pluralism and equal opportunity. The diverse composition of our staff, Board, Grantees and populations served illustrates that we honor this commitment.

Does Cal Wellness fund political or partisan activities?

By law, Cal Wellness cannot participate in a campaign for or against a political candidate, cannot lobby with respect to specific legislation and cannot distribute its funds to influence specific legislation or the outcome of an election.

Cal Wellness does make grants to organizations to inform the development of public policies that promote wellness and enhance access to preventive health care. Such grants have been given to nonpartisan groups that train health policy advocates or provide policymakers with information and research on health issues.

How can I get more information about the Cal Wellness' grants and finances?

A list of grants awarded since 2015 can be found on our Search Our Grants page. You can download our most recent Form 990. This information is also contained in our annual 990-PF IRS statement, which is available online at Guidestar (free registration required).

What are Cal Wellness' investment policies?

The investment program of Cal Wellness is guided by its Investment Policy Statement, which incorporates Cal Wellness’ policies, objectives, long-term asset allocation plan and implementation program for asset management.

Under the direction of the Board of Directors and the Finance Committee, Cal Wellness has created a diversified investment program that provides returns consistent with the Foundation’s risk tolerance and complies with all applicable regulations. The program utilizes highly qualified investment managers with demonstrated skill in the asset classes represented by Cal Wellness' holdings. The Finance Committee meets four times each year to review the performance of Cal Wellness' investments and discuss investment policies.

Back to top