Sunday, August 22, 2004

Organizational Transparency - Part One

Why Part One? This is such an important issue, and the standard is being raised all the time. Here's a checklist for you to consider:

1. Go to Guidestar.org and check your organization's report. Guidestar posts both your IRS-990 form and other information, so you want to make sure it is correct. There is also an option for you to update your report, which is particularly important if, in your reporting year, you had an unusually bad (or good) set of outcomes and you want to make sure people see a more realistic view. Guidestar is used by more and more potential donors, and nearly every foundation starts their review of your organization by going there.

2. Post your 990 report at your website. In the current climate of distrust, you want to lead with the fact that you are a trustworthy, well run organization. By putting your 990 (and, I would suggest additional information about outcomes, people served, etc.) on your website, you can get a head of the cynicism curve. Make sure you put trend data on as well (how many people you served in different areas over three or four years, for example). Remember, you want to post the original 990, so scan it into .PDF form (and add a link to the free Adobe Reader or take it to a place like your local Kinko's, who can do it for you.

3. Make sure your Executive Director signs the 990 form. This action is a result of Sarbanes-Oxley, which is requiring a different level of corporate officer accountability.

4. Make absolutely sure you have a conflict of interest policy for your board and staff. Discuss the policy annually, and make sure everyone understands what it means. Here is a sample policy, with discussion. Here's a link to another sample policy in .doc (Word) format.

You want to make sure you have the simple stuff done, and done before people ask. As I said earlier, this area is a moving target, so I'll post more as events warrant: that's kind of why I started this blog. Oh, and here is one of the management ideas on transparency from my website.

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