Five Elements of a Healthy Nonprofit

A medical check-up is an important tool for maintaining and improving our personal heath. It works the same for organizations. As a member, we offer a free online assessment tool. Take time now to pause and give your organization a check-up. Click below to verify membership and get your link.

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Assess a snapshot of your organization’s health!

We have made it easy to assess the health of your organization. While not everything important is easy to measure, a frank assessment of your organization can help you identify and prioritize your next steps.

Our model for a healthy nonprofit looks at these five elements:

1. Strong governance and oversight
2. Good management and a healthy organizational culture
3. The resources to carry out your mission and accountable management of funding
4. Communications and relationships with people who give you money, use what you create, help you meet your mission, and carry your message
5. Efficient and effective programs, services, and administrative systems

The Self-Assessment will tell you how your organization is doing on 58 standards. Intrigued? Want to see how your organization measures up? We have two ways you can do this.

Online Self – Assessment, results report, and recommendations

Gather a team of people with the most knowledge of the organization to jointly review the standards and decide where you are in meeting them. 
For example: The Executive Director/CEO, Operations, Finance, Development, Board Chair, and Programs. Then complete the free online assessment.  A single set of responses are entered into the form. A results report and general recommendations on how to improve your scores on each of the 58 standards is emailed to you.


Governance & Boards

The engagement and accountability of the board of directors is essential to a high – impact nonprofit. The board of directors is central to the success of a nonprofit organization. The board provides oversight, expertise, support, connections to stakeholders and community leaders, and a long-term perspective.

The executive and the board need to partner since their success depends on each other. A lack of clarity about the role and focus of the board is a bigger threat to an organization than lack of funding.

An organization will be able to make better decisions, make decisions more quickly, and maximize the talents of its board members and staff if the board:

  • Has common understanding of the role of the board and of board members,

  • Establishes clear procedures for how the board is going to operate, and

  • Establishes a partnership with the ED/CEO, so that he or she can make the day-to-day decisions that need to be made if an organization is going to be effective.

Review the questions below to see if your board exhibits these indicators of good governance:

  • Do you have a well-defined mission statement that guides the organization's decision making?

  • Is your board engaged and attentive to its responsibilities and to the organization's needs?

  • Does your board have the necessary characteristics, community connections, and experience?

  • Do board members have a common understanding of their role and responsibilities?

  • Does the board focus on long-term strategy and oversight of the organization rather than management decisions?

  • Are board members providing support to both the executive and the organization through personal giving, fundraising, and representing the organization?

  • Has the board clearly and effectively allocated authority to the executive director so that day-to-day decisions can be made without interference from the board?

  • Is the executive director evaluated annually using clearly defined performance measures that are agreed to in advance?

 Check out the following resources and tools that provide some simple ways to implement basics toward having a good board:

Best Practices for Nonprofit Boards (501 Commons)

Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice (Independent Sector)

Free Online Nonprofit Board Basics Program (Compasspoint)

What Board Members Need to Know About Not-for-Profit Finance and Accounting (Jacobson Jarvis & Co.)

Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, Third Edition (BoardSource)

An all-time bestseller for BoardSource, "Ten Basic Responsibilities" explores the board’s 10 core responsibilities in the context of the governance challenges facing nonprofits today. It was also recently updated to include a deeper discussion of the role that advocacy plays in the responsibilities of nonprofit boards.