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Principles and Practices

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Nonprofit organizations should have thoughtful, intentional systems for general communications, marketing and media relations in order to promote and advance mission achievement. Internal communications help to motivate, inform, and counsel employees and volunteers of nonprofits and to set the stage for external communications. External communication helps to attract and retail constituents and to raise public consciousness, understanding, and commitment to the organization. Working with the media is a necessary part of effectively communicating an organization's mission to the general public, donors, volunteers and policymakers.

Diversity and inclusion is the practice of embracing, respecting, and celebrating diverse identities, abilities, cultures, and points of view to ultimately strengthen and advance nonprofit organizations.

A nonprofit board of directors is responsible for defining the organization's mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization. A nonprofit board actively sets policy and ensures that the organization has adequate resources to carry out its mission. The board provides oversight and direction for the executive director and is responsible for evaluating his/her performance. A nonprofit board also has a responsibility to evaluate its own effectiveness in upholding the public interest(s) served by the organization.

Nonprofits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards in managing their financial resources. Nonprofits must comply with all legal requirements related to financial matters. They should adhere to sound accounting principles that ensure fiscal responsibility and build public trust. Nonprofits should use their financial resources to accomplish their missions in an effective, efficient manner and should establish clear policies and practices to regularly monitor how funds are used.

Nonprofit organizations play an important societal role in serving as the vehicles by which philanthropy occurs. Nonprofits act as the intermediaries between donors and beneficiaries and have ethical obligations to ensure proper handling of funds to carry out their missions. Nonprofit fundraising should be conducted according to the highest ethical standards with regard to solicitation, acceptance, recording, reporting, and use of funds. Nonprofits should adopt clear policies for fundraising activities to ensure responsible use of funds for designated purposes and open, transparent communication with donors and other constituents.

Effective management of human resources is essential for creating successful organizational results. Nonprofit organizations should exercise fair and equitable human resource practices that attract and retain qualified individuals. Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all legal employment requirements and to provide a safe work environment. Nonprofit organizations should establish specific policies and practices that promote mutual cooperation to advance the organization's interests, and that reflect appropriate industry standards for remuneration.

Effective and appropriate use of technology is critical to maintaining a nonprofit organization's accountability and relevance. A nonprofit should manage information with regard for confidentiality, safety, accuracy, integrity, reliability, cost-effectiveness, and legal compliance. A nonprofit should incorporate appropriate technology into its work to improve its efficiency, efficacy, and accuracy in the achievement of its mission.

Organizational planning is a process that defines a nonprofit's overall direction, activities and strategies to fulfill its mission. Nonprofits have a duty to engage in sound planning to define a clear vision for the future. In order to best position organizations to achieve their goals, nonprofit planning should include input from constituents and should be intentional and ongoing.

Nonprofit organizations play a central role in the democratic process by providing a means for public participation and promotion of the common good. As entities that serve the public, nonprofit organizations should engage in public policy and advocacy activities to promote constituent, organizational and sector interests. Nonprofits should work to promote broad public participation in public policy and advocacy efforts and should provide assistance to the public in these efforts.

Strategic alliances can take many forms and can serve multiple purposes, such as partnership, sharing of resources, and improved operational efficiency. Strategic alliances help to strengthen individual nonprofit capacity and the capacity of the sector as a whole. Nonprofit organizations should be open to strategic alliances and, when appropriate, should partner with other organizations to enhance their capability to achieve desired results. Nonprofits should work to promote cooperation and coordination among a variety of entities to avoid unproductive duplication of services and to maximize the resources available to the communities they serve.

As entities that serve the public, nonprofits have an ethical obligation to conduct their activities in a way that is accountable and transparent to their constituents. Nonprofits should engage in ongoing efforts to openly convey information to the public about their missions, activities, and decision-making processes. This information should be easily accessible to the public and should create external visibility, public understanding, and trust in the organization.

Effective volunteer engagement is critical to the success of a nonprofit. The time, talent and treasure provided by volunteers help an organization maximize results in working toward its mission. Nonprofit organizations should exercise fair and equitable volunteer management practices that attract and retain qualified individuals. An effectively managed volunteer program can build an organization's efficiency, enhance community engagement, provide specialized expertise, and increase the community's awareness of issues and resources through a knowledgeable pool of ambassadors and donors.

Management Support Organizations (MSO)

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Nonprofit Good Practice Guide