Principles for Good Governance
Public trust is essential to maintaining a healthy sector as we work to achieve a nation where all can thrive. The Principles outline 33 sound practices every charitable organization should consider to strengthen effectiveness and accountability.
Download the Principles Guide
The 33 principles are organized under four main categories:
08: Board Responsibilities
09: Board Meetings
10: Board Size and Structure
11: Board Diversity
12: Board Independence
13: CEO Evaluation and Compensation
14: Separation of CEO, Board Chair and Board Treasurer Roles
15: Board Education and Communication
16: Evaluation of Board Performance
17: Board Member Term Limits
18: Review of Governing Documents
19: Review of Mission and Goals
20: Board Compensation
Strong Financial Oversight
History of Principles for Good Governance
In response to calls by some for government oversight of sector organizations, Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Baucus (D-MT) encouraged Independent Sector to convene an independent panel to develop and recommend actions every charitable organization should consider to strengthen good governance, ethical conduct, and effective practice. In response, Independent Sector convened the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, comprised of 24 nonprofit and philanthropic leaders whose organizations encompassed diversity in location, mission, perspective, and scope of work.
The Panel issued their “Strengthening the Transparency, Governance, and Accountability of Charitable Organizations” report to Congress in June 2005.
A supplemental report was issued in 2006. The reports offered more than 100 recommendations to improve government oversight, including new rules to prevent unscrupulous abuse of charitable organizations for personal gain. Many of the recommendations were enacted in the Pension Protection Act of 2006.
Equally committed to developing effective, broadly applicable methods of self-regulation, in October 2007 the Panel issued the Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice, A Guide for Charities and Foundations — premised on the belief that the best bulwark against misconduct is always well-informed vigilance by nonprofit community members themselves, including a set of principles they could adopt or adapt, promote sector-wide, and improve over time.
The Principles were updated in 2015 to reflect new circumstances in which the charitable sector functions, and new relationships within and between the sectors.
Learn More in the Principles Resource Center
The Principles Resource Center is the gateway to online tools and resources that support charitable organizations in their implementation of the Principles.
It includes the full text of each of the 33 Principles, including explanation and rationale, key questions organizations should consider, and legal background information from the Legal Reference Edition of the Principles, as well as a database of more than 300 online resources from across the sector that support organizations in the implementation or adaptation of recommendations made in the Principles.