Nonprofits: Adopt a Board Confidentiality Policy

There are certain types of formal written corporate policies that nonprofit organizations are well-advised to adopt and follow rigorously. Examples include a Conflict of Interest Policy and a Whistleblower Policy - two of the items that IRS revenue agents will ask to see during an audit. There are other categories that are useful and recommended if they apply in the particular circumstances; for instance, an Read More

When Mission and Personal Philosophy Diverge

An intriguing story bubbled up in the third week of January 2018 to grab some space in the New York Times and other important news outlets. “Trouble [had] been brewing for over a year at New York’s venerable American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and [finally erupted] in a bizarre dilemma that perhaps could only arise in today’s contentious political atmosphere.” AMNH “is one of the world’s preeminent scientific Read More

Best Practices & Nonprofits

When experts in a field get together, they like to toss around the phrase “best practices.” A best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things, e.g., a standard way of complying with legal or ethical requirements. “Best Read More

Donor Privacy Policy: Every Nonprofit Should Have One

Which documents should your organization have in that expensive, "gold-embossed," three-ring binder you ordered back in the day when you first got started? There are dividers for your articles of incorporation, your bylaws, and the minutes of the first meeting. Of course, you should keep it up to date with the minutes of each board meeting, along with formal resolutions adopted, and any amendments to the bylaws. What Read More

What Should a Nonprofit Know About a Forensic Audit?

In Conflicts of Interest Can Lead to Big Problems, we discussed the significant troubles that have plagued the University of Louisville Foundation for several years. “It’s not uncommon,” we explained, “for a major nonprofit institution like a university health care center to form a foundation to help raise funds and support the important work of the main organization. Many of these relationships proceed for decades Read More

Berkshire Museum Drama Heats Up

Recently, in Controversial Decision for Berkshire Museum (10/11/17), we reported on an uproar last summer in the art world. The trustees of this 100-year-old institution in  Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had announced a decision to sell some 40 valuable and cherished works of art at a Sotheby’s auction set for November 2017. The board explained this plan was based on the Museum's perilous financial situation: an Read More

Evaluating Nonprofit Board Practices

Engaging in the useful self-reflection that has marked the philanthropy community especially in recent years, leaders of the sector have been taking a good look at varied aspects of governance. Earlier this year, we highlighted one study by Stanford University, relying on a 2015 survey, in “Nonprofit Boards: How Effective Are They?” This report suggests that “considerable improvement” is needed for more successful Read More

Conflicts of Interest Can Lead to Big Problems

“The last shoe may have dropped,” according to The Nonprofit Quarterly in late July, which has been following the tumultuous tale of troubles from conflicts of interest at Kentucky’s University of Louisville Foundation. It’s not uncommon for major nonprofit institutions like universities and healthcare facilities to form foundations to help raise funds and support the important work of the main organization. Many of Read More

When is Local Intrusion into Nonprofits Too Much?

The relationship between a local government and area nonprofits is often complex. There is a continual push-and-pull between control and autonomy; it plays out each day across America. One such story comes from Hamilton County, Tennessee; Chattanooga is the county seat. The board of commissioners took a big step encroaching on the independence of the tax-exempt groups there. The organizations promptly and forcefully Read More

A New Way to Diversify Nonprofit Boards

A frequent criticism of the nonprofit world is that boards of directors are primarily populated with people far removed in wealth, background, circumstances, and experience from the people these organizations are formed to serve. There’s talk, of course, that this should change, but discussions about increasing board diversity often lead to little action. Now the City Attorney of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Wade Hinton, Read More