Monday, December 17, 2012

Part 1: Achieving the Full Benefits of Meeting Standards

This three-part series recounts one organization’s journey to meet the Accountability Standards through integrating their entire organization. The Charities Review Council’s Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson sat down with Ekta Prakash, Executive Director of CAPI, an organization working to guide refugees and immigrants in the journey toward self-determination and social equality.
Intentionally Including Board & Staff in the Review Process is the Golden Ticket
Part 1 of a 3 part series inspired by CAPI’s journey to Meet Standards
By Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson

During my chat with Ekta, I experienced a moment of clarity from which I got a positive case of the willies. These kind of willies may also be known as the “warm fuzzies” and yes, you can get warm fuzzies about nonprofit sector accountability and transparency (or at least I can). Ekta shared with me the power that the process of going through the review process and meeting Standards was having on their organization. I found myself wanting to shout “Yes! Yes!”

Organizations know that donors and funders value the “Meets Standards Seal” showing that a nonprofit is stable and well-managed. Oftentimes, one or two staff members work through the Accountability Wizard to learn the Standards, upload their key documents, and answer related questions, only involving others when the board needs to vote on an issue, conduct an assessment, or finance staff needs to find a copy of a 990. These lucky few (seriously, I mean lucky) quickly see the benefits of learning and applying the Standards.

The benefits are many but the most transformative changes seem to occur if the organization includes all staff, board, and volunteers in the learning process and celebrates the success of meeting Standards. Ekta shared that she thought it was necessary for the CAPI staff to understand the Standards and the related practices.

“We cannot do our work as leaders of an organization without staff understanding the Accountability Standards and how they show up in their day-to-day work.  This is a key contributor to the stability of our organization.”

Here are some ways you can get your whole team up to speed on the Accountability Standards:
  • Celebrate your Meets Standards Seal - Yep, it’s that simple. Don’t let the accomplishment of meeting Standards go unnoticed. Tell the story of how trustworthy your organization is internally, as well as externally. Share the seal with staff and board members so they can include it on materials, explain what it means and what you did to get it. Educate them about the existence of nonprofit standards and how they help to bring the sector together. Most of all, ensure your institutional knowledge is kept by sharing it!
  • Standards Ice Breaker - Take turns having staff share one or two Standards as an icebreaker for your staff meetings. Give a brief introduction of the standard, then challenge the group to talk about how it is important to the work of the organization and how it relates to any current sector issues or news (this can work for board meetings too).
  • Share with Stakeholders - Volunteers, participants, partners, and community members all have a stake in your work. Produce a short story about meeting the Accountability Standards for your website, newsletter, or a postcard explaining your achievement and what it means for your work. This promotes pride in the work and builds a sense of obligation and accountability that is appreciated.
Up Next: How meeting Standards boosts internal accountability and transparency.

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