New Year, Great Time to Get Your Nonprofit House in Order

Most of us enthusiastically kick off each new year with a checklist of things we’re determined to get done – including getting our houses are in order – both generally and financially. And while we’re committed to doing them all, we often fall short of the mark. But that’s not an option for charitable organizations striving to operate in a transparent, ethical, and accountable way.

Fortunately Independent Sector’s Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice provide a roadmap of 33 sound practices your organization can follow to strengthen your commitment to ethics and accountability.

Of course you should adhere to them all, but with 2020 already in swing, here are a few to consider while the year is still new to keep your organization and board on the ethical “right side”:

  • Do you have a code of ethics, and do your board and staff follow it?
    We can’t talk about ethics and accountability without a reminder that every charitable organization should have a code of ethics. You also should have specific policies and procedures that describe how your organization puts the code into practice and addresses violations. And among other things laid out in Principle 2, your board should be actively involved in ensuring that your code fits the needs and character of your organization.
  • Have you checked out your governing documents lately?
    Your board should review your organizational and governing instruments at least every five years to ensure your nonprofit is following the rules it set for itself, and that rule changes are made when needed. Principle 18 notes that any significant changes made by your board to the documents must be reported to the IRS, and perhaps to state regulatory bodies, as well.
  • How about your mission and goals? Do they need the once over?
    According to Principle 19, your board should establish and regularly review your organization’s mission and goals at least every five years to make sure your programs, goals, and activities continue to advance your mission and make wise use of your resources. Things to consider – your organization’s current needs, anticipated community and program area changes, changing financial and human resource needs, and an evaluation of your organization’s overall impact and effectiveness.
  • Then there are your financial records. They’re complete and accurate, right?
    If that question gave you pause, then “don’t pass go” on reviewing Principle 21, a strong reminder that your organization must keep complete, current, and accurate financial records and have strong financial controls. If none of your board members have financial expertise, you’ll definitely want to retain a qualified paid or volunteer accounting professional who does. Just saying.
  • And, a suggestion: If you’re up for the challenge, why not commit to a deep dive with our Ethical Leadership course with two online cohort dates coming up soon?

We only touched on four of the principles to keep in mind to make sure your new year is a good year, ethically speaking. Fortunately, the other 29 are easily accessible in one handy place on the IS website, along with other great online tools and resources in our Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice Resource Center.

From Independent Sector to all working to build a world where all can thrive – have a happy, ethical, and accountable new year!

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Civil Society, Equity, Ethics and Accountability, IS Staff
Focus Areas: Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice