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Snapshot 2014: Board roles amid the “Rising Tide of Expectation”

America’s Charities published their yearly Snapshot of over 240 charitable organizations to explore the key trends that are shaping corporate and nonprofit partnerships as well as the challenges and opportunities they face moving forward. The title of this year’s publication is Snapshot 2014: Rising Tide of Expectations—Corporate Giving, Employee Engagement and Impact.

According to the report, the rising tide of expectations on nonprofit organizations is due to the increased accountability, transparency and impact fueled by the proliferation of technology in our increasing digital age. 

About 68 percent of nonprofit organizations stated that they are affected by digital culture and its drive on their demand to demonstrate impact and that digital culture requires them to be more transparent with their stakeholders, including donors. When asked what they believe is important to their supporters, in order, they ranked:

  1. Impacts and outcomes
  2. Transparency
  3. Governance and high standards

In terms of impact:

  • “Mission, programs and services of the organization
  • Transparency in all aspects of their work
  • Strong leadership
  • Number of people served
  • Good governance
  • Low administrative/overhead costs (Snapshot 2014)”

For transparency:

  • Seventy percent of survey respondents said that it was very important to be transparent in all aspects of their work with corporate donors. however, the factors of transparency, such as
    • “Reporting on the stewardship of the organization’s mission, programs and services
    • Delivering financial and other key information on the organization’s website
    • Posting tax returns and other financial information for easy review by constituents
    • Detailing staff and volunteer activities designed to achieve the mission
    • Disclosing salary information (Snapshot 2014)”

Transparency was a common theme throughout all three categories but we found the results of the “Governance and high standards” section especially relevant to us. 

Respondents believe the five most important elements of good governance that are important to donors are:

  • “Accountability and transparency
  • Board review/approval of the annual IRS Form 990
  • Independent audit committee
  • Formal rules to guide the governance of the organization
  • Board approved policy mandates to govern the organization (Snapshot 2014)”

Eighty-two percent of the survey respondents believe that accountability and transparency are the most important element of good governance to their organizations.

The other generally accepted practices of good governance are not, in their opinion, equally as important. While they value good governance, there is a disconnect in understanding what the best practices in governance actually are.

America’s Charities found that “a common understanding of these factors–good governance, transparency, accountability, and results—is essential to move beyond overhead and meet the rising tide” that many nonprofits are facing.

What we would like to offer is some insight, based on our knowledge of what good governance is. We work with organizations daily and aid them in their governance processes and would like to share those experiences with you. Our next post will highlight some of that knowledge from some of our Governance Geeks.

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