Honesty. That’s the most important characteristic that people expect of their leaders, according to the results of a survey given multiple times over the last several decades on six continents to more than 100,000 men and women of different ages, cultures, education levels, languages, occupations, races, and religions. For leaders everywhere, honesty is always job one. The same can be said of the nonprofit community, which lives and dies on public trust. If those who donate their resources and volunteer their talents lose faith in our honesty, if they think we are untrustworthy and dishonest, then contributions of dollars and time will dry up, as will our abilities to meet our missions. Fortunately, good tools exist to help nonprofits ensure they comply with ethics and accountability standards. This edition’s articles by nationally-respected experts highlight some of the tools and how to use them.
Starting at the Top
Boards of directors aren’t just people who have financial responsibility for a nonprofit. They also help set the tone and priorities for the organization. One way for them to do so is to adopt best practices for reviewing and updating core policies for the organization. Another is to spend time evaluating the board’s own strengths and weaknesses. Amy Coates Madsen, Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, shares the importance of board participation in adopting best practices and a few easy things board members can do to start out the new year.
Nonprofits and State Charity Officials: Partners in Preserving Public Trust
Nonprofits and state charity officials – the Offices of Attorneys General, Secretaries of State, and others in state governments whose responsibility it is to regulate nonprofits in their state – share a common goal: protect public trust. To that end, many state charity officials are working in close cooperation with state associations of nonprofits and other groups to develop materials to educate donors and to assist nonprofits with best practices. Karen Gano, immediate Past President of the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) and Assistant Attorney General for the State of Connecticut, shares some of these efforts and what your nonprofit can do to help raise the bar.
How best practices continue to evolve
Adopting best practices at a nonprofit is not a one-time event; it is a journey. Legal requirements change. Fresh promising practices are discovered and tested. And new resources to help with accountability, ethics, and transparency are always being developed and refined. Rosey Higgs of the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands (NAM) shares her organization’s journey in developing its Guidelines and Principles for Nonprofit Excellence (G&P). While individual nonprofits will not be creating a full principles program themselves, much can be learned from the steps NAM took to create buy-in and how their G&P program continues to evolve.
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