I was at a party recently and a group of us started talking about our favorite Accountability Standard and one poor lad wasn’t able to come up with one on the spot—that was awkward.
Okay, apologies for the lame introduction, but seriously that sounds like a fun party, am I right? Okay, maybe just for fellow nonprofit geeks.
It can take a while to become intimately familiar with each of the 27 Accountability Standards that the Charities Review Council holds at the heart of its nonprofit reviews, but once you do, each one seems precious and absolutely necessary. While I have a bundle of favorites, the one I couldn’t live without (no judging for the melodrama) is the Public Information and Annual Reporting Standard. It’s also the one Standard I’d want any ol’ regular non-nonprofit geek to know by heart.
Why “Public Information and Annual Reporting” is my favorite Accountability Standard:
When a nonprofit is upfront about their mission, governing body, management of financial resources, communities served, and progress towards achieving its mission, it promotes informed and responsible philanthropy. And by upfront, I mean super easy to find. I want to be able to find all of this information in less than three clicks on an organization’s website.
When I’m researching an organization (whether to donate or volunteer), if it’s not on the Charities Review Council’s list of Most Trustworthy Nonprofits, I check the organization’s website. Can I easily find:
· A mission statement
· A list of board of directors
· Annual financial statements (prepared in conformance with GAAP—Generally Accepted Accounting Principles)
· Summary of the total cost of each major program and the fundraising and administrative costs (as defined by GAAP or IRS guidance for completing IRS Form 990)
· Descriptions of its programs, activities, and accomplishments in relation to the organization’s mission for at least the most recent fiscal year (note the accomplishments and impact piece is key)
· Description of the communities or populations and geographic area served
This might seem like a pretty basic bar, and honestly it is. But it says a lot about an organization and its value for transparency to provide this information easily to constituents.
So when contemplating your own nonprofit geek cred, ask yourself, “Do I have a favorite Accountability Standard?” And if not, it’s high-time you get one. Who knows when you’ll be out on the town and the question gets asked, “So, what Accountability Standard best speaks to you?”