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Compendium of Standards, Codes, and Principles of Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations

A number of charity watchdog groups, nonprofit and foundation associations, professional associations, as well as individual organizations, have developed standards of practice and ethical codes. Some are organized by type of organization or mission served, some are developed for organizations of a particular region, and still others serve individuals in a particular profession. These guidelines help board members, staff and volunteers demonstrate their commitment to practice that is responsible, accountable, and ethical, and provide benchmarks to determine how well an organization is fulfilling its responsibility to its contributors and to the general public.

Independent Sector has compiled nearly 100 such standards, codes and principles into one comprehensive, web-based clearinghouse. If you have information on additional standards that should be included in this compendium, please email ethics@independentsector.org.

How the Compendium of Standards, Codes, and Practices Is Organized

I. Public Charities

II.   Foundations

III. Professional Practice: Standards for Individuals

IV.  Standards for Online Giving

V.   Standards for Gifts-in-Kind

VI. Standards to Guide Marketing/Other Relationships Between Nonprofits and    Corporations

VII. Samples of a Donor Bill of Rights

VIII. International Standards

 

I. PUBLIC CHARITIES

A. Standards of External Review Organizations

B. Standards of Membership Organizations, Organizations With Affiliates, and Accrediting Bodies for Members, Affiliates, and Other Public Charities

C. Standards of Public Charities for Internal Use

A. Standards of External Review Organizations
These are standards created by national and state-level external review organizations for public charities.

1. National

  • American Institute of Philanthropy
    How AIP Rates Charities
    Watchdog organization's criteria for rating charities; results published in Charity Rating Guide
  • BBB Wise Giving Alliance
    Standards for Charitable Accountability
    Standards covering governance and oversight, effectiveness, finances, and fundraising and informational material that are used by the Alliance to evaluate national charities. These standards replace the previous standards of the National Charities Information Bureau (NCIB) and the Philanthropic Advisory Service (PAS) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus Foundation.
  • Charity Navigator
    Charity Navigator Ratings
    Watchdog organization's criteria for rating charities; rating and ranking published online
  • MinistryWatch
    5-Star Rating System (PDF)
    Religious watchdog organization's system for rating charitable ministries; ratings published in online database
    Transparency Guide (PDF)
    Guide to how MinistryWatch evaluates ratings on the standard of transparency for ministries; grades published in online database
  • Standards for Excellence Institute
    Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector
    Guiding principles required for members of the Standards for Excellence Institute
    The Standards for Excellence Institute offers a voluntary certification program for organizations interested in illustrating that they have implemented each of the Standards for Excellence. In addition to this, the organization offers a comprehensive educational program for nonprofits wishing to implement the Standards outlined. Standards for voluntary organizations adapted from Maryland Nonprofits standards and offered to a national audience.

2. State

  • Charities Review Council of Minnesota
    Accountability Standards
    Watchdog organization's standards to guide Minnesota charities

B. Standards of Membership Organizations, Organizations With Affiliates, and Accrediting Bodies for Members, Affiliates, and Other Public Charities
These standards have been created by membership organizations and/or organizations with affiliates for their institutional members and affiliates. Some encourage nonmember institutions to use their standards as guidelines. Accrediting bodies are also included in this section.

1. Sector-Wide

a. National

b. State and Regional

  • Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado Springs
    Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado Springs offers Standards for Excellence educational programming designed to help nonprofits implement the Standards outlined. Standards offered under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.
  • Council of Community Services of New York State, Inc.
    Pledge for Excellence in Ethical Fundraising for New York State Charitable Nonprofits
    Standards voluntary for member organizations, adopted by Board of Directors of each respective organization.
  • Delaware Association of Nonprofit Organizations
    DANA offers Standards for Excellence educational programming designed to help nonprofits implement the Standards outlined. Standards offered under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.
  • Donors Forum of Chicago
    Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices
    These principles and best practices are useful to members and Illinois nonprofits.
  • Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center, The University of Iowa
    Principles and Practices for Charitable Nonprofit Excellence
    Principles and practices to promote good management practices, ethical conduct, and public accountability for Iowa charitable nonprofit organizations.
  • Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations (Maryland Nonprofits)
    Standards for Excellence: Guiding principles required for member and encouraged for nonmember Maryland nonprofits. This Standards for Excellence code (and accompanying program) are replicated under a licensing agreement by other state nonprofit associations, management support organizations, and national subsector organizations. The Maryland Nonprofits Standards for Excellence Program has a comprehensive educational program. The organization also offers a voluntary certifications program for member and non-member organizations that wish to illustrate their adherence to these Standards for Excellence and earn the right to use the Seal of Excellence.
  • Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN)
    Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence
    General guide for nonprofit organizations.
  • Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations (OANO)
    Standards for Excellence
    OANO also offers a voluntary certification program for organizations interested in illustrating that they have implemented each of the Standards for Excellence. In addition to this, the organization offers a comprehensive educational program for nonprofits wishing to implement the Standards outlined. Standards for voluntary organizations adapted from Maryland Nonprofits standards under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.
  • Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits
    Oklahoma Standards for Excellence
    The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits offers a Standards for Excellence program designed to help nonprofits implement the Standards outlined. Standards for voluntary organizations adapted from Maryland Nonprofits standards under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.
  • Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO)
    Standards for Excellence
    PANO also offers a voluntary certification program for organizations interested in illustrating that they have implemented each of the Standards for Excellence. In addition to this, the organization offers a comprehensive educational program for nonprofits wishing to implement the Standards outlined. Standards for voluntary organizations adapted from Maryland Nonprofits standards under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.
  • Utah Nonprofits Association
    Standards of Ethics for Nonprofit Organizations in Utah
    Voluntary standards for nonprofit organizations.
  • West Virginia Community Development Hub
    The Hub offers Standards for Excellence educational programming designed to help nonprofits implement the Standards outlined. Standards offered under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.


2. Subsector

a. Arts, Culture, and Humanities

b. Education

  • Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
    Alumni Relations Principles of Practice
    Guidelines on alumni relations for educational institutions.
  • National Association of Independent Schools
    Principles of Good Practice 
    Standards for member schools, defining high standards and ethical behavior in key areas. 
  • National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts
    Institutional Membership Book [Under Publications available to order, free of charge]
    Standards required for members and chapters, voluntary for affiliates.

c. Environment and Animals

d. Health

e. Human Services

f. International, Foreign Affairs

g. Philanthropy and Grantmaking
See Philanthropy and Grantmaking under Standards of Public Charities for Internal Use and Standards of Membership Organizations for Members and Other Foundations below.

h. Voluntarism

  • Points of Light Foundation: Volunteer Center National Network
    Standards of Excellence
    Required standards for member volunteer centers.

i. Religion-Related

C. Standards of Public Charities for Internal Use
Public charities created the following standards to guide their own board, staff, and volunteers.

1. Sector-wide

  • Independent Sector
    Statement of Values and Code of Ethics.
    IS Members (Member password required)  |  Others (We ask that you fill out a brief information form first.)

2. Subsector

a. Education

  • Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
    Management Reporting Standards.
    Internal standards.  For more information, contact the organization directly.
    info@case.org email
    http://www.case.org
  • NAFSA: Association of International Educators
    Code of Ethics (PDF)
    Internal code of ethics to guide staff, individual members, and regional chapters; also offers Procedures for Handling Ethics-Related Complaints, Principles for International Educational Exchange, and case studies.
  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design
    Code of Good Practice 
    Guides the accreditation work of NASAD.
  • National Association of Schools of Music
    Code of Good Practice 
    Guides the accreditation work of NASM.
  • National Association of Schools of Dance
    Code of Good Practice 
    Guides the accreditation work of NASD.
  • National Association of Schools of Theatre
    Code of Good Practice 
    Guides the accreditation work of NAST.
  • Scholarship America
    Code of Ethics.
    Internal standards.
    www.scholarshipamerica.org
  • University of San Francisco Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management
    Administrators' Conduct
    Internal code of ethics and conduct for individual administrators.

b. Health

  • American Heart Association
    Conflict of Interest Standards.
    Internal standards, also required for member individuals.
    http://www.americanheart.org
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
    Code of Ethics 
    Code of conduct for staff and volunteers.

c. Human Services

  • The Arc of the United States
    Standards for Excellence.
    The Arc of the United States offers Standards for Excellence educational programming designed to help Chapters of the Arc implement the Standards outlined. Standards offered under a licensing agreement with Maryland Nonprofits.
  • Girls Incorporated
    Code of Conduct 
    Standards covering employment, communications, accountability, donors rights, and conflict of interest.
  • Lions Clubs International
    Lions Code of Ethics
    General code of ethics for individuals.
  • Reach the Children
    Internal principles of the organization.
  • Rotary International
    The 4-Way Test
    General ethical guide.
  • The Salvation Army
    Fundraising Code of Ethics
    Code of ethics for all individuals involved in organization's fundraising activities.
  • United Way of America
    Code of Ethics (PDF)
    Code for volunteers, employees, and representatives of UWA.
  • United Way of Portage County 
    Agency Admission Standards
    Eligibility criteria for membership.

d. International, Foreign Affairs

e. Philanthropy and Grantmaking

f. Religion-Related

II. FOUNDATIONS

A. Standards of Membership Organizations for Members and Other Foundations

B. Codes or Standards of Foundations for Internal Use

A. Standards of Membership Organizations for Members and Other Foundations
The umbrella organizations below created the following standards for their member foundations. Some encourage other foundations to use the standards as guidelines.

1. Private, Family, and Corporate Foundations

2. Community Foundations

B. Codes or Standards of Foundations for Internal Use
This is one example of a foundation's own code of ethics.

III. PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: STANDARDS FOR INDIVIDUALS

A. Standards for Professionals in Fundraising, Volunteer Administration, Governance, 
and Other Activities
The standards below are written for members and other individuals involved in fundraising, volunteer administration, governance, and other activities.

1. Fundraising

2. Volunteer Administration

3. Governance

4. Other

IV. STANDARDS FOR ONLINE GIVING

V. STANDARDS FOR GIFTS-IN-KIND

VI. STANDARDS TO GUIDE MARKETING AND OTHER RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN NONPROFITS AND CORPORATIONS

For more information on corporate-nonprofit partnerships, please visit the Mission & Market section of Independent Sector's website.


VII. SAMPLES OF A DONOR BILL OF RIGHTS

The following Donor Bills of Rights are written from the donor's perspective.

A Donor Bill of Rights: AFP, AAFRC, AHP, CASE (PDF)
This Donor Bill of Rights was developed by: Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the American Association of Fundraising Counsel (AAFRC), the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). In 1993, the Bill of Rights was endorsed by Independent Sector, the National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC), the National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG), the National Council for Resource Development (NCRD), and United Way of America. It has since been endorsed by numerous other organizations that cut across a broad range of focus areas, such as universities, public radio stations, hospital foundations, and various other entities.

Donor Bill of Rights: ECFA 
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has also created a Donor Bill of Rights as a resource to donors. In examining the charity's standards or guidelines and asking relevant questions, the ECFA encourages donors to ensure that they are accorded the rights outlined in this Donor Bill of Rights.

Principles of an E-Donor Bill of Rights: AFP 

Since the inception of the Donor Bill of Rights (AFP, AAFRC, AHP, CASE) in 1993, the same technological advances that offered donors the opportunity to give charitably via the Internet also presented the philanthropic community with new ethical issues to consider regarding online giving. To fill in these gaps and to complement the Donor Bill of Rights, the Association of Fundraising Professionals www.afpnet.org (AFP) is currently working with other philanthropic organizations and online service providers to create an E-Donor Bill of Rights.

VIII. INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS


Principles for Good Governance

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