West Virginia’s nonprofit organizations provide a wide variety of valuable services and products that are essential to communities across the state. The success of these nonprofits is dependent upon public confidence and support.
The West Virginia Nonprofit Association, in partnership with Dr. Susan Aloi of West Virginia Wesleyan College and a team of stakeholders, has developed these Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence to serve as a model for West Virginia nonprofit organizations to guide their operations and practices, enabling them to meet their missions.
The Principles & Practices are intended to describe best practices in managing and governing nonprofit organizations. These principles provide benchmarks to help an organization determine how efficiently and effectively it is working towards its mission and provide recommendations for improvement. The Principles are organized into eight categories, which you can browse in the menu on the left of this page.
Please note: The Principles & Practices resources and assessment tools are not meant to be construed as legal advice, nor are they a substitute for individualized consultation with an attorney.
The Infrastructure Assessment is designed to help nonprofit organizations ensure they have the documentation, systems, policies, procedures, and support mechanisms in place to comply with the law, and to function effectively, efficiently, and transparently.
The Infrastructure Assessment is focused on what an organization should have in place, rather than how to use those systems/processes.
The Infrastructure Assessment recommendations are applicable to small grassroots organizations and large, multi-site networks. They provide a starting point for 501(c)(3) organizations in West Virginia. Please keep in mind that your organization may be subject to additional rules or regulations due to your unique mission, subsector, or activities.
Completing the Infrastructure Assessment is well worth your time. Much of this information is needed to receive grant funding and demonstrate professional accountability to the public, your clients, and prospective donors.
The items listed under “Required” are state or federal requirements, notated as WV (state law) or US (federal law).
Failure to comply with regulations may jeopardize your organization’s legal standing and ultimately your ability to serve your constituents.
Beyond the legal requirements, nonprofit organizations face increased accountability and public scrutiny. It is important for an organization to be able to answer questions quickly and accurately about its operations. Such items are listed under “Strongly Recommended” and “Recommended.”
After completing the Infrastructure Assessment, you can use it to note your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, determine priorities, determine any issues to take to your board, and plan a course for improvement. A good next step is to use the Practices Assessment for any area(s) of organizational weakness for guidance on how to implement positive change.
The Practices Assessment is designed to help you identify what your organization is doing well and create an action plan for addressing organizational challenges. Honesty is critical to conducting a thorough assessment and establishing realistic goals. Whether your results are a cause for celebration, make you mildly uncomfortable, or send up multiple red flags for potential crisis or conflict, please remember that the results belong to your organization. They are the first step in moving towards making your organization stronger, more efficient, and having greater mission impact.
The Practices Assessment is:
- A starting point for organizational assessment and planning
It will present a broad overview of your organization’s current level of functioning and provide resources to strengthen areas of weakness.
- A non-judgmental resource
West Virginia Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence is an internal assessment tool, not an instrument for comparing your organization to others. It is designed for you to compare your organization’s practices to the best ones in the sector to help you determine the strengths and challenges of your organization. Your results should be considered within the context of your organization’s stage of development as well. Organizations early in their development may naturally score lower in some areas than more mature organizations. Understanding nonprofit lifecycles and the interconnectedness of capacity and impact is critical in setting appropriate benchmarks and goals for your organization.
- Brief and relatively painless
Rather than focus on one particular aspect of your organization, this tool provides a quick “first glance” of the entire organization, focusing on the interconnection and relevance of all actions to organizational accountability and mission achievement.
The Practices Assessment is not:
- The be-all, end-all of organizational assessment
Many models exist; many models are effective. It is important to remember that the Practices Assessment is an objective source of information not reliant upon or designed to reflect on any particular paradigm or style for management or governance. Principles & Practices is designed to be a stepping stone, allowing you to assess your current strengths and challenges and then leading you to develop an action plan that will enhance your chance for success.
- A quick fix for whatever ails you
This tool will not solve all of your problems, but it will help you identify critical areas and identify specific actions that will bring you closer to resolution.
- Accreditation or certification
The experience of completing this assessment is personal in that it belongs to your organization. The intrinsic value in completing the Practices Assessment comes in the knowledge of how to move your organization forward more effectively.
Potential Applications of the Practices Assessment
As a new executive or lead volunteer, you may find it helpful to complete the assessment as a way to orient yourself to the organization you serve. The results can provide a personal work plan or frame of reference as you move forward. Seasoned executives and volunteers will find the tool equally helpful as a reflection and assessment practice to aid in future planning.
- Team/Focus Group
For a broader sense, gather a team or focus group to complete the Practices Assessment. Involve a range of staff, volunteers, and service recipients as appropriate. Compile responses for an overall perspective. A more objective picture will be available if the post-assessment process involves an outside facilitator.
- Board Assessment
Invite the board to complete the assessment as individuals or small groups and then compile the feedback. The results can provide a good starting point for a strategic planning retreat or program planning meeting, and can also serve as a positive first step for a new executive and his/her board.
A consultant could facilitate the Practices Assessment process for your organization, help to interpret the results, and work with you to design a plan of action. Having an objective outside party can be very helpful as they can often draw out thoughts and issues that might not otherwise be revealed.
All nonprofit organizations operating in West Virginia should be aware of and in compliance with all legal requirements pertaining to nonprofit management, reporting, and governance.
Visit the following websites for a summary of applicable laws, links to helpful resources, and downloadable forms:
- West Virginia Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/WVCODE/Code.cfm?chap=29&art=19#19
- West Virginia Secretary of State Charitable Organizations Division: http://www.sos.wv.gov/business-licensing/charities/Pages/default.aspx
- Internal Revenue Service: http://www.irs.gov/charities
West Virginia Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence is provided by the West Virginia Nonprofit Association (WVNPA) and has been made available for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal, financial, accounting, or tax advice and should not be relied upon in that manner. An attorney, accountant, and/or financial advisor is best equipped to answer any financial or legal questions. WVNPA is not responsible for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential or any other damages arising out of or in connection with the use of this document or in reliance on the information available through it. This includes any personal injury, business interruption, loss of use, lost data, lost profits or any other pecuniary loss, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortuous action, even if WVNPA has been informed of the possibility.
© 2015 West Virginia Nonprofit Association
The West Virginia Nonprofit Association extends its deep gratitude to Dr. Susan Aloi, of West Virginia Wesleyan College, as well as Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, Michigan Nonprofit Association, and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for their input and generosity in the constant evolution and enhancement of this resource.
Portions of this work are adapted with permission from: Guidelines & Principles for Nonprofit Excellence © 2014 Nonprofit Association of the Midlands; Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence © 2014 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits; and Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence © 2009 Michigan Nonprofit Association All rights reserved by their respective copyright holders.