Sustainable and Sound Management Practices

The National Council of Nonprofits recommends that nonprofits be familiar with the principles, practices, and standards developed by many state nonprofit associations, and by other national umbrella groups, that offer guideposts for operating a nonprofit in a legal, ethical, and prudent manner.

Sustainability of programs and operations in a nonprofit: In an environmental context, "sustainability" generally means finding a way to use resources in a manner that prevents their depletion. In the nonprofit sector the phrase “sustainability” is commonly used in a financial context to describe a nonprofit that is able to financially sustain itself over the long term, perpetuating its ability to fulfill its mission. For some organizations, finding a way to diversify income streams can be one avenue towards sustainability.

Measuring performance: Funders and others expect nonprofits to be able to demonstrate that not only are the nonprofit's assets being prudently used, but also that nonprofit's work is having a positive impact, changing and improving lives and communities, or saving the oceans or whatever the mission may be. How does your nonprofit demonstrate the difference it is making? Whether your process is called "performance measurement," "outcomes evaluation," or something else, the goal is that your board and staff can make data-driven decisions and you will be able to articulate a compelling reason why donors should support your nonprofit's work.

Tools for sound management practices: Internal controls and Dashboards. 

Even the smallest nonprofits can put internal controls in place to safeguard their cash, and other assets. We've collected guidance from experts and suggest an approach for even the smallest nonprofits. Dashboards sound great, but what are they, and how do you actually use them? One example is to chart your nonprofit’s progress in implementing various policies or keep track of progress in updating the nonprofit’s procedures. A dashboard can chart not only the priorities for implementing various goals and give you a snapshot of the progress being made, but also illustrate who is accountable for which projects.

Learn about the important governance policies that the IRS expects all charitable nonprofits will adopt and about transparent practices that increase the public’s trust in nonprofits.

Also visit the section on Business Planning/Sustainability in the Council of Nonprofits' online bookstore.