Transparency & Accountability

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As entities that serve the public, nonprofits have an ethical obligation to conduct their activities in a way that is accountable and transparent to their constituents. Nonprofits should engage in ongoing efforts to openly convey information to the public about their missions, activities and decision-making processes. This information should be easily accessible to the public and should create external visibility, public understanding and trust in the organization.

Infrastructure Checklist

Required

Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Compliance with legal reporting, tax law, financial requirements (Internal Revenue Code §6033; 990) US
Obtain Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. US
Document retention & destruction policy (Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002; 990) US
IRS Form 1023 & IRS determination letter, publicly available US
IRS Form 990 and variants US
Whistleblower policy (Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002; 990) US
Articles of incorporation (Neb. Rev. Stat. §21-1921, §21-1922; Iowa Code §504.202) NE, IA
File biennial report (by April 1st, in odd years) with Secretary of State (Neb. Rev. Stat. §21-125; Iowa Code §504.1613) NE, IA
Obtain liquor license (Neb. Rev. Stat. §53-138.03; Iowa Code §123.30(3) (a)) NE, IA
Obtain gaming license to conduct bingo, a lottery by the sale of pickle cards, a lottery with gross proceeds in excess of $1,000, or a raffle with gross proceeds in excess of $5,000. (Neb. Rev. Stat. §9-232.01(1) (2); Neb. Rev. Stat. §9-424(1)) NE
Obtain license for games of skill and chance, bingo operations, raffles, and social gambling activities from the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals, Social and Charitable Gambling Unit IA
Professional commercial fundraisers must register with the Iowa attorney general and obtain a registration permit. May be required to update registration quarterly. (Iowa Code §13C.2) IA
Be prepared to provide financial disclosure information to any person requesting it (Iowa Code §13C) IA
  • Be aware of the requirements for sales tax/exemptions, as it varies from state to state.

Iowa has a very broad policy of exempting nonprofits from taxes and Nebraska exempts very few.


Strongly Recommended

Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Annual report (publicly available)—including program information, organizational performance, financial status, donor (with permission), board & staff listings, organization contact information
Code of ethics
Nondiscrimination policy


Recommended

Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Confidentiality policies & procedures (all constituents)
Meeting agendas & descriptions of significant decisions made by the board of directors (publicly available)
Information about fees & services provided (publicly available)


Practices Assessment

Accountability

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We comply with all legal, tax, financial and other filing/reporting procedures required by the federal government, including the 990. US
We have a written, mandatory document retention and destruction policy, including guidelines for handling electronic files and voicemail, back-up procedures, archiving of documents and regular check-ups of the reliability of the system. US
We meet all federal and state requirements for disclosure. US, NE, IA
We comply with all legal, tax, financial and other filing/reporting procedures required by the state, including the biennial report and liquor and gaming licenses (if applicable). NE, IA
We register our professional commercial fundraisers with the Attorney General, obtain a permit and update it as required. IA
We use our resources responsibly for the purpose of serving the public interest. Financial audits are approved by the organization’s board and certified by the Executive Director and the CFO.
We adhere to established, professional standards for the nonprofit sector, our subsector and our particular activity area(s).
We have established and regularly measure clearly defined levels of performance in our activities, and we share those with the public.

Accessibility & Public Information

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We have our EIN, IRS determination letter, articles of incorporation, bylaws, resolutions, board meeting minutes, records of actions taken by the board, accounting records, current list of board members and current membership list (if applicable) as readily accessible permanent records. US, NE, IA
We provide our constituents with ongoing opportunities to interact with the board and management regarding the organization’s activities.
We engage all stakeholders in the development of goals and service delivery methods.
We provide multiple means for contacting the organization to request information and provide input.
We make information about our operations, governance, finances, programs and activities widely available to the public. In the form of an annual report, this includes:
  • An explanation of our mission, activities and results
  • An explanation of how individuals can access programs/services
  • Overall financial information, income and expense statements, balance sheets, functional expense allocations
  • A list of board members, staff, supporters and donors
We openly communicate with other nonprofit organizations to share lessons learned and best practices.

Fairness & Equity Practices

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We have a whistleblower policy with specific procedures for reporting violations of organizational policy or applicable laws and ensure that those making such reports are protected from repercussions. US
We have a written conflict of interest policy that is signed by board members, staff and volunteers. US
Information regarding our fees and services is readily available to the public.
We ensure confidentiality and non-discriminatory service to our constituents.
We have a written code of ethics that our board members, staff and volunteers adhere to.


Walking the Talk

  • Review core values and principles of other organizations and discuss models that may reflect your organization’s values; develop and adopt (through a retreat or sub-committee) values and principles and then integrate them into all conversations regarding policy and program. Answer key questions such as: What practices are ethically acceptable? Are there funding sources that are ‘taboo’ or would create negative perceptions about our work? How will staff be best utilized in achieving our goals/mission? Are volunteers an important part of how we want to deliver services?
  • Research and adopt good practices recognized within your field of service. Share these practices with other organizations to generate a professional standard.
  • Review and consider Codes of Ethics for your industry. Allow your board to discuss formal adoption of a particular code, or the development of a hybrid code unique to your organization.
  • Develop a marketing and community relations strategy that keeps key constituencies informed: governmental units, donors, for profit and nonprofit organizations. Share annual reports, newsletters and media releases with targeted individuals.
  • Develop a communications strategy to keep in contact with community members and key groups/organizations. Invite them to focus groups or town-hall meetings to discuss community needs and gain input on your work. Establish a context of partnership and stewardship of community resources.
  • A nonprofit must meet all federal requirements for public disclosure. These requirements state that a nonprofit must provide the last three years’ information returns (Form 990 or its variants), as follows:
    • Public access must be provided immediately on request by allowing inspection of the documents at the organization's office or offices;
    • Copies of the documents must be provided within 30 days upon written request;
    • Organizations that make their materials widely available through publication on the Internet do not have to provide copies;
    • If the IRS determines that the organization is being subjected to a harassment campaign, copies do not have to be provided; and
    • 501(c)(3) organizations not classified as private foundations are not required to publicly disclose the list of names and addresses of individual contributors and may block out that section of Form 990 and other materials for public viewing.