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Standards for Excellence®

4th Guiding Principle: Finance and Operations

by | Dec 3, 2020

Kristopher Madore is proudly licensed by the Standards for Excellence Institute® to assist nonprofit organizations implement the Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.

Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector

The foundation of the Standards for Excellence® program is the published Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.  It identifies 6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management, which contain 27 different topic areas.  Each topic area includes specific benchmarks and measures that provide a structured approach to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability in your organization.

The 4th guiding principle is Finance and Operations.  It contains 5 topic areas.

Guiding Principle:  Nonprofits should have sound financial and operational systems in place and should ensure that accurate records are kept.  The organization’s financial and non-financial resources must be used in furtherance of tax-exempt purposes.  Organizations should conduct periodic reviews to address accuracy and transparency of financial and operational reporting, and safeguards to protect the integrity of the reporting systems.

(1) The board should annually approve the organization’s budget and the organization should be operated in accordance with this budget.
(2) The organization should periodically assess the organization’s financial performance in relation to the budget.  A nonprofit should create and maintain reports on a timely basis that accurately reflect the financial activity of the organization.  Internal financial statements should be prepared at least quarterly, should be provided to the board of directors, and should identify and explain any material variation between actual and budgeted revenues and expenses.
(3) The board should annually review the percentages of the organization’s resources spent on program, administration, and fundraising.
(4) For nonprofits with annual revenue in excess of $500,000, the annual financial statements should be subject to audit by a Certified Public Accountant.  The board should hire the auditor.  The full board should approve the audited financial statements and receive a copy of the management letter (if any).  The board should monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the management letter, if applicable.

(1) Nonprofits should have written financial policies that are adequate for the size and complexity of the organization.  These policies should address investment of the assets of the organization, internal controls, purchasing, and unrestricted current net assets.

(1) A nonprofit should have written, board-approved personnel policies and procedures that govern the work, actions, and safety of all employees and volunteers of the organization. The policies should cover the basic elements of the relationship (e.g., working conditions, telecommuting (if applicable), employee benefits, vacation, and sick leave).  The policies should address orientation to the organization, employee evaluation, supervision, hiring and firing, grievance procedures, employee growth and development, and confidentiality of employee, client, and organization records and information.

(1) A nonprofit should have written, board-approved administrative policies that are periodically reviewed by the board.  At a minimum, these policies should address issues such as crisis and disaster planning, information technology, communications, and social media.

(1) Organizations should make every effort to manage risk and periodically assess the need for insurance coverage in light of the organization’s activities and its financial capacity.  A decision to forego general liability insurance coverage or Directors and Officers liability insurance coverage should be made only by the board of directors.  The decision should be reflected in the minutes for the meeting at which the decision was made.


No part of these materials may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any other information storage retrieval system without written permission from the Standards for Excellence Institute® of Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations.  For more information, please contact the Standards for Excellence Institute, 1500 Union Avenue, Suite 2500, Baltimore, MD 21211 or 410.727.1726.

The Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector, Second Edition, 2014

© 1998-2019 Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations dba Standards for Excellence Institute

I work with nonprofits to implement these Standards by incorporating educational materials, providing training, and giving one-on-one and group technical assistance. To learn how I can help you, email [email protected] or schedule some free time with me by clicking the green button in the lower right.