Guiding Principles & Best Practices Contents

What’s Inside?

131 Best Practices, or recommended methods, activities, processes and structures are provided for the 29 Core Elements, or essential areas of work deemed critical to implementing the 9 Guiding Principles.

Over time, in order to achieve the organization’s mission, a successful nonprofit board will work to address the following nine guiding principles and related core elements.

1. Mission & Strategic Direction

Guiding Principle: Nonprofits engage in strategic thinking as a continuous process that drives organizational success. Board leadership thinks deliberately about its mission, values and vision, considering how to operate effectively, stay relevant and achieve sustainability.

Core Elements:

1.1. Define and use its mission, vision, and values

1.2. Use strategic thinking

1.3. Engage in strategic planning

2. Governance

Guiding Principle: Nonprofit boards govern by providing high-level vision and leadership to ensure sound stewardship of organizational assets and resources.

Core Elements:

2.1. Work as a single unit

2.2. Set high ethical standards

2.3. Appoint and empower a chief executive officer

2.4. Regularly grade their own performance

2.5. Recruit and train board members


3. Legal & Ethical Accountability

Guiding Principle: Nonprofits, by nature, exist to serve the public good. They are obligated to display high levels of ethical behavior, accountability, transparency and compliance with the law.

Core Elements:

3.1. Comply with all applicable laws

3.2. Be ethical in actions and behaviors

3.3. Respect and protect confidential information

3.4. Communicate with stakeholders and the public

4. Financial Management & Stewardship

Guiding Principle: Nonprofits effectively and responsibly manage the financial resources bestowed upon them and upon which they rely to accomplish their mission.

Core Elements:

4.1. Employ internal financial controls

4.2. Demonstration fiscal responsibility

4.3. Monitor sources of funds and their use

5. Operations & Evaluation

Guiding Principle:Nonprofits develop, implement and monitor operational plans to ensure accountability, evaluation and continuous improvement.

Core Elements:

5.1.   Have an operational plan

5.2.   Build evidence-based evaluation into plan

5.3.   Have board approved policies and procedures for critical operations

6. Human Resources

Guiding Principle: Nonprofits recognize that people are their most important asset. They utilize effective leadership and fair practices to attract and retain employees and volunteers.

Core Elements:

6.1. Comply with human resources laws and regulations

6.2. Recruit and retain top-quality staff and volunteers

7. Fundraising

Guiding Principle: Nonprofits provide donors with ways to support the community, causes and organizations they value. As agents of philanthropy, nonprofits have an ethical and fiduciary obligation to handle funds appropriately, honor donors’ wishes and have sufficient funds to carry out its mission.

Core Elements:

7.1.   Have board-approved fundraising policies

7.2.   Adhere to ethical standards for fundraising

7.3.   Implement a written, board-adopted annual fundraising plan

7.4.   Communicate regularly with donors

7.5.   Implement a donor stewardship program

8. Marketing & Communications

Guiding Principle:Nonprofits engage in marketing that adheres to high ethical and professional standards to communicate the organization’s mission, vision, values and progress toward social change to all stakeholders.

Core Elements:

8.1. Adopt and fund an annual marketing communications plan

8.2. Build and protect its brand

9. Information Management

Guiding Principle: Nonprofits use secure technologies to maintain accurate information that informs decision-making.

Core Elements:

9.1.   Have a technology plan and policies and procedures

9.2.   Maintain technology systems necessary for accurate information management