Principles and Practices

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While there is no single definition of a “best practices” for each and every nonprofit organization, there are well-recognized legal, ethical, and accountability practices that are expected of well-run and accountable charitable nonprofits. Specific legal obligations vary state by state, but many state associations of nonprofits promote “best practices” - whether described as "guiding practices," "principles and practices,"  or "standards" - to encourage legal, ethical, accountable, and transparent practices by all charitable nonprofits and boards of directors. Recognizing and adopting these practices not only benefits individual charitable nonprofits, but also donors, and ultimately the individuals and communities that charitable nonprofits serve. We encourage you to become familiar with the recommended ethical practices in your state.

State Specific Practices

Even if your nonprofit is not required by law (or an accrediting body) to adopt particular standards of conduct, you may decide to aspire to practices that will help your nonprofit operate transparently, prudently, and ethically (as well as in accordance to applicable laws). Many nonprofits find that having a benchmark to guide their nonprofits’ practices is helpful. Grantmakers and the donating public may also look to state specific accountability practices as guideposts for identifying well-run and effective nonprofits.

The resources that are variously referred to as "Guiding Principles," "Principles and Practices," and "Standards for Excellence®" linked below, are examples of how various state associations of nonprofits have identified and recorded the accountability practices for nonprofits in their states. Many state associations also provide interactive online assessments, in-person educational programs, and even certification programs, to help raise awareness among board and staff members about accountability practices. 

The National Council of Nonprofits encourages you to explore the impressive resources listed below, and to raise awareness about these resources among your nonprofit's staff and board members. We hope that practices reflecting accountability and transparency, prudent fiduciary oversight, legal, ethical, and responsible fundraising, and effective governance will be reinforced through sound practices at every charitable nonprofit. Being aware of the accountability resources that are available for charitable nonprofits in your state is the first step:


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