Each year, every SCORE volunteer signs the SCORE Code of Ethics & Conduct. Each new volunteer signs the SCORE code upon joining the organization. As an organization, SCORE takes pride in its professionalism and assures clients that the confidential details about their business remain confidential.
By affirming the SCORE Code of Ethics & Conduct each year, every counselor nationwide reviews the code and agrees to act in the best interests of clients and to conduct SCORE business by honoring high standards of professionalism and ethics. This written code gives SCORE a way to make tangible the organization's basic beliefs about acting in the client's interest.
To best serve SCORE clients, SCORE volunteers shall:
- Always conduct their counseling and other SCORE activities in a manner that unequivocally places the interests of their clients first. Members shall ensure that all available resources are offered to clients, including assistance by other counselors or chapters, or by outside organizations where appropriate.
- Initiate follow-up contacts to ensure the potential success of their clients. Volunteers will continue counseling a client as long as the counseling is of value to the client. If the volunteer is unable to continue counseling for personal reasons, the case will be reassigned to another volunteer.
- At all times protect the confidentiality of business information provided by the clients. No disclosure will be made of any information, or of the existence of a counseling relationship, without the client's prior approval.
- Not counsel two or more competing clients at the same time without the full knowledge and approval of all parties.
- Not accept or participate in counseling that creates a conflict of interest between the counselors and their own or their family's outside business or financial activities or interests.
As unpaid volunteers, SCORE volunteers shall:
- Neither charge nor accept fees, honoraria or things of value as payment for individual counseling services or for their participation in training activities on behalf of SCORE.
- Not accept payment from a client for travel or other expenses incidental to counseling or training or any other activity, as those expenses are eligible for reimbursement by SCORE.
A SCORE volunteer assigned to counsel a client may become a paid consultant for or accept other employment by a client being counseled or by a participant in a workshop, provided these four conditions are met:
- The client makes a written request to the chapter chair and the change in status is not prompted by the counselor.
- The counselor has made his or her final written report on the case or has sought and obtained approval from the chapter chair to withdraw from the case after making a full disclosure of the circumstances in writing.
- The chapter chair is satisfied that there is no misconduct by either the client or counselor and that the change in status will not reflect adversely upon SCORE's volunteer program.
- The chapter chair authorizes the counselor to accept the position and terminates the counselor's membership in SCORE, or does not authorize the counselor to accept the position and terminates the counselor's membership upon such acceptance.
The following guidelines apply to interactions between SCORE volunteers and third parties:
- SCORE volunteers shall not accept fees, commissions, kickbacks or things of value from third parties as a result of recommending any services, equipment or supplies, nor shall they recommend the purchase of goods or services in which they have a direct or indirect interest, financial or otherwise.
- When volunteers perform SCORE services for another organization or agency (other than SBA or SCORE clients), the organization may reimburse SCORE for the expenses of the members by providing an honorarium to SCORE or the chapter, which can then reimburse the members for their expenses.
- SCORE volunteers shall neither charge nor accept fees or things of value for assistance in the preparation of loan applications nor accept so-called finder's fees for the location of lending sources.
- SCORE volunteers, when advising clients about obtaining professional or other services or goods, shall identify, whenever feasible, several sources from which the client may select.
To safeguard the integrity of the SCORE mission, it is vital to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest. To that end, SCORE volunteers shall not:
- Advertise, solicit or propose the use of their outside businesses in the course of their counseling and/or business training activities. SCORE membership is not to be used as a source of or basis for developing business contacts for personal or family gain.
- Directly or indirectly become officers, directors or shareholders, or provide funding (by way of investing, loans or otherwise) for a for-profit business organization that is seeking counseling assistance from SCORE or has received it within the past three years.
As long as they are part of the association, SCORE volunteers shall:
- Participate in chapter activities in addition to counseling, including attending meetings, and shall maintain the standards for conduct and counseling agreed to by the volunteer.
- Be responsible for staying current with continuing advances in successful business practices and relevant technical developments.
- Not discriminate in any of their SCORE-related activities against any person because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, marital status, handicap or sexual preference.
- Not make public statements that appear to associate SCORE with personal opinions of the members or that are critical of SCORE or any of its sponsors.
- Not make statements that appear to identify SCORE with a political party or a candidate for federal, state or local office.
- At all times, during the performance of their services, conduct themselves in such a manner as not to discredit themselves, SCORE or SBA.
- Not engage in any form of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination. Sexual harassment includes the making of deliberate or repeated unsolicited verbal comments, gestures or physical contact of a sexual nature in circumstances where such conduct reasonably is or would be unwelcome by the person or persons. Further, when such unwelcome conduct reasonably interferes with or creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile counseling or other work environment, it is considered sexual harassment.
- Seek advance advice about the propriety of any action or inaction that they have reason to believe may be or may lead to a violation of the SCORE Code of Ethics & Conduct before they or others engage in the activity or fail to act. If needed, the chapter chair shall consult the district director or CEO concerning the proper decision. Any member requesting advice from any chapter, district or national officer shall receive a decision in writing.
Commitment to the Code
Volunteers shall be fully aware of the SCORE Code of Ethics & Conduct. When individuals apply for membership in SCORE, they agree by signing the membership application that they "shall comply with the provisions of SCORE's Code of Ethics & Conduct, which I have read, and also with the other rules for its volunteers."
Accordingly, applicants shall receive and retain a copy of the current Code of Ethics & Conduct at the time they receive an application for membership. Further, since changes may occur in the Code of Ethics & Conduct and to refresh volunteers' knowledge of the provisions of the code, each chapter shall:
- At the beginning of each fiscal year, give each member a current copy of the Code of Ethics & Conduct.
At that time require each member to sign and date a statement that says, "I have reread the SCORE Code of Ethics & Conduct and reaffirm my agreement to comply with its provisions."