‘Accountability’ may seem like one of those popular management concepts you know would be nice to implement if your non-profit had the time and budget. Not only is accountability essential to your non-profit’s health and efficacy — affecting everything from donations to grants, hiring to volunteering, board fiduciary duty, to employee morale — it also is easy to adopt.
Start with Laws & Rules
Accountability starts by complying with all applicable laws and rules. Make sure new staffers and board members understand these as well as your non-profit’s code of conduct. In fact, ask employees and board members to sign an ethical code — and hold them to it.
As your organization pursues its mission, it must do so fairly and in the best interests of its constituents and community. Your status as a non-profit means you are obligated to use your resources to support your mission and benefit the community you serve. Evaluate programs accordingly, both in respect to the activities and their outcomes.
Put Governance Front & Center
There can be no accountability without good governance. This starts with your non-profit’s executives and managers, who must be accountable for failures as well as successes. Ultimately, governance is your board’s responsibility. Your board needs to understand the importance of its fiduciary duty and focus on the big picture, not the process-oriented details best handled at the staff or committee level.
For example, management might prepare internal financial statements and review performance against approved budgets on a quarterly basis. Then, it will present these statements to the board (or its audit or finance committee) for review and approval. Your board also is responsible for establishing and regularly assessing financial performance measurements.
Make Your Efforts Public
Communication is a big part of accountability. Your annual report, for example, is designed to summarize the year’s activities and detail your non-profit’s financial position. In addition, the report’s list of board members, management staff, and other key employees can be just as important. Stakeholders want to be able to assign responsibility for results to actual names.
Your non-profit’s Form 990 also provides the public with an overview of your organization’s programs, finances, governance, compliance, and compensation methods. Notably, charity watchdog groups use 990 information to help them evaluate non-profits on fiscal responsibility, charitable impact, and other qualities.
Implementing accountability is not a one-time act but an ongoing process. Consider accountability when evaluating staffers, volunteers, and, especially, board members. Contact us for more ideas about running an ethical and effective organization.