If you had to guess, how strong do you think your nonprofit organization’s policies are? If you’re unsure or have that gut feeling they’re not strong, you’re certainly not alone. After surveying more than 900 directors of nonprofit organizations, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, in collaboration with BoardSource and GuideStar, reported some concerning findings in their 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations.
You may know that it’s important to have good governance when it comes to ensuring the stability and strength of your organization. Without having the right procedures in place to help govern the board of directors and the institution as a whole, the entire organization risks collapse.
While securing sources of revenue and recruiting new members are critical elements of every nonprofit, the real backbone of your organization is your board’s governance. Without the proper structure in place to help shape and reinforce your vision, mission and objectives, your board will not have the tools needed to lead – making your funding and membership objectives less effective.
According to Stanford Graduate School’s survey:
“Over two thirds (69 percent) of nonprofit directors say their organization has faced one or more serious governance-related problems in the past 10 years. Forty percent say they have been unable to meet fundraising targets. Twenty-nine percent have experienced serious financial difficulty. A quarter (23 percent) have asked their executive director to leave or had to respond to unexpected resignation [and] sixteen percent say they have had extreme difficulty attracting qualified new board members.”
Furthermore, the study found that:
- Too many directors lack a deep understanding of the organization
- Most lack formal governance structure and processes
- Many directors are not engaged, do not understand their obligations
While the shortcomings underscored by this report highlight a widespread problem throughout the nonprofit industry, the solution may be as simple as writing (or reevaluating) and implementing a variety of key policies. Enacting proper policies throughout the organization will not only help rectify problems that stem from a weak system of governance, they will help solidify the connection between the directors and their organization while putting a solid structure in place for streamlining the nonprofit’s central objectives, such as fundraising, budgeting and lobbying. Policies can, and should, be in place to help manage the organization’s advisory council, board member orientation, ethics, confidentiality, donor relations, performance, and sponsorship activity – among many others.
Not sure what policies you should have in place? Take a look at this comprehensive Not-for-Profit Policy Checklist. Here are also a few examples of sample policies to give you greater insight into what you should be striving to accomplish.
By Mark Van Benschoten, CPA (Dublin office)