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A nonprofit organization should advocate for the people it serves, its organization, and the common interests of the nonprofit sector to operate effectively and advance its mission. A nonprofit should also facilitate community participation in matters of public interest relevant to its mission through its advocacy strategies.
Advocacy means the active support of an idea or a cause to influence public opinion or public policy. Advocacy comprises a broad array of activities including civic engagement, public education and lobbying. A nonprofit’s level of involvement in advocacy will vary based on the organization’s mission, capacity and strategic direction.
Nonprofits can advocate freely provided they follow some important legal requirements. Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, nonprofits must not engage in partisan political activities including giving money to or supporting or opposing, candidates for elected public office. But nonprofits must follow federal, state and local laws that define limits on lobbying activities and applicable reporting requirements.
Communications strategies advance a nonprofit’s mission, inspire its stakeholders, and increase its impact. A nonprofit must be proactive in its communications strategy to accomplish its goals. Effective communications practices help to ensure public trust in the organization and connect the organization to its stakeholders, inspiring action. Thoughtful planning and internal communication are important for positive relationships with employees and key volunteers. External communications strategies attract and retain stakeholders, raise public awareness, advance key mission-related concepts and increase funding for the organization.
The nonprofit sector serves an essential role in creating and sustaining a civil society, by filling needs not met by the private or public sectors. Nonprofits provide direct services, advocate, and lobby on behalf of underserved communities, groups and stakeholders. As such, nonprofit organizations are in a unique position to provide informed leadership and modeling of equity, diversity, and inclusion practices.
Implementing equity and diversity in nonprofit organization workplaces is accomplished through the identification and elimination of any form of discrimination. The second step is the creation of workplace practices that remove any employment biases or discrimination for any person.
An essential responsibility of every nonprofit organization is to assess the impact of its actions and to learn from its previous work to better serve the community in the future. Evaluation demonstrates a nonprofit organization’s fulfillment of its mission through a systematic, verifiable approach to measuring effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. An organizational culture of evaluation drives continuous improvement, enhancing performance and efficiency. Evaluation results should serve as a key determinant to strategic decision-making and planning, enabling an organization to best utilize its resources in areas with the greatest returns. Evaluation results, and the associated organizational learning, are important for fulfilling organizational purpose, establishing accountability with stakeholders and for encouraging continued investment of resources by funders and supporters.
Nonprofits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards of their financial resources. Nonprofits must comply with all legal financial requirements and should adhere to sound accounting principles that produce reliable financial information, ensure fiscal responsibility and build public trust. Nonprofits should use their financial resources to accomplish their missions in an effective and efficient manner, and should establish clear policies and practices to regularly monitor how funds are used. Adherence to best practices is critical to maintaining compliance and public trust.
Nonprofits provide opportunities for individuals and institutions to voluntarily contribute to causes of their choice and serve as the important vehicle for philanthropy.
Nonprofits act as the intermediary between donors and beneficiaries, and have an ethical obligation to steward funds properly to carry out their missions.
Nonprofits must comply with all federal, state, and local laws concerning fundraising practices. Nonprofit fundraising should be conducted according to the highest ethical standards for soliciting, accepting, recording, reporting and using funds. Nonprofits should adopt clear policies for fundraising activities to ensure responsible use of funds and open, transparent communication with contributors and other constituents. A nonprofit should conduct its fundraising activities in a manner that upholds the public’s trust in stewardship of contributed funds.
Members of the governing body, typically the board of directors or board of trustees, must be aware of the legal fiduciary duties related to their work: the duty of care, the duty of loyalty and the duty of obedience. Colorado law requires directors to discharge their duties to the nonprofit in good faith; with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances; and in a manner they reasonably believe to be in the best interests of the nonprofit.
The ability of an organization to make effective use of the skills, knowledge, experience, and talents of its employees and volunteers is essential to accomplishing the organization’s mission. Nonprofit organizations must ensure the organization follows fair and equitable practices that attract and retain qualified employees and volunteers. Like for-profits, nonprofits have a legal obligation to adhere to all applicable employment laws and to provide a safe and productive work environment, for both employees and volunteers. Each nonprofit organization should establish specific policies and practices that meet legal requirements, promote solid employee and volunteer relations practices and include other stakeholders so that they can effectively work together to advance the organization’s mission.
A nonprofit should gather and manage information in a manner that values and ensures security, sensitivity, confidentiality, safety, accuracy, integrity, reliability, cost-effectiveness and legal compliance. A nonprofit should invest in appropriate technology to enhance organizational capacity and thereby improve its efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy in achieving its mission.
Leadership is the critical starting point to have effective programs and staff performance within your organization.
A strong nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward into the board and outward in the community.Paul Light, “Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Nonprofit Leadership”
While great nonprofit leaders are typically “big idea” people, they do not need to be your organization’s chief storyteller, spokesperson or fundraiser. Use the resources and trainings below to learn more about leadership.
Organizational planning defines the overall direction, activities, and strategies that will be used to fulfill a nonprofit’s mission. Nonprofits should engage in sound planning to define a clear vision for the future and specific strategies for reaching established goals. Nonprofit planning should be proactive rather than reactive. It should incorporate evaluation results and periodic analyses of community needs. The process should be intentional and ongoing in order to best position a nonprofit to achieve its goals.
Colorado’s nonprofits have a social impact while also being an economic engine for the state. To provide a clearer representation of the nonprofit community’s impact, the Colorado Nonprofit Economic Impact Study was published. The study details the fiscal contributions of nonprofits that strengthen Colorado’s communities and economies.