Guidelines and Principles for Nonprofit Excellence

It can be hard to assess how you compare to other nonprofits. As with any human endeavor, we want to compare ourselves to bigger and better nonprofits, without really knowing the story behind their success. Instead, you are better off steadily improving your organization to be stronger and more resilient based on best nonprofit standards.

The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands provides its Guidelines and Principles for Nonprofits free of charge to Nebraska and Iowa nonprofits. There are two parts to the page. The first is a comprehensive infrastructure checklist that covers the areas of financial, legal, information technology, human resources, fundraising, and governance. You can review the PDF checklist on their site, but if you register (free), you can save your answers and get a prioritized list for your organization. The list will help you focus on what needs attention first. You can also share the answers with other staff and board members.

The second part is a Practices Assessment, which goes beyond what you need to have, into how you should best carry out your work. Remember, this isn’t a way to compare yourself to others. It is a method for you to compare your organization to best practices and to find areas you can improve.

Getting these results can be overwhelming, but it is incredibly valuable to have the information. Don’t try to tackle everything at once, just start with one area of concern and work your way through them.

For example, you may realize you need to focus on HR policies. Pick one to start with, find a sample online and adapt it to your organization. Don’t try to do them all at once. NAM offers a wiki with a lot of good guidance in the areas.

Another area that I found helpful is to look at the financial history of the organization. I did this for an organization I was working with, and the resulting chart helped me tell the story to the board of why the organization constantly struggled with cash flow.

To create this graph, I created a spreadsheet with each column, assets, liabilities, net income, income and expenses for each year and then created the line graph from there. Once the board saw that our income and expenses had grown tremendously, but our net assets remained low, it energized fundraising efforts.

Let me know how I can help, whether it is completing the checklist with you, or working on the areas of highest concern. Contact me here.

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