From our founding in 1980, Independent Sector has been committed to providing the nonprofit and philanthropic community with publications that expand understanding of the vital work of the country's charitable organizations and help those organizations have a greater impact.  The materials below are available for free as PDFs.

Organizations wishing to distribute limited copies of or excerpts from these materials should fill out a Reprint Permission Request.


From the Independent Sector and the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector

In 2004, Independent Sector convened the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, which collected ideas from thousands of people across the country to find ways to strengthen the sector’s transparency and accountability. IS has since continued that work, helping organizations of all sizes and missions improve their governance.

A key element of this ongoing effort has been a series of documents filled with recommendations that will help nonprofits and foundations maintain the public trust that is crucial to their success.

Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations, 2007
The Guide outlines 33 practices designed to support board members and staff leaders of every charitable organization as they work to improve their own operations. There is also a Reference edition, which provides additional background for the ideas in the 33 recommendations.

The Principles Workbook: Steering Your Board Towards Good Governance and Ethical Practice, 2009

Developed in partnership with BoardSource, the Principles Workbook makes it easier for boards of directors and staff leaders to assess the areas where their organizations are doing well and where there is room for improvement. It distills the core concepts in each of the 33 Principles for Good Governance, and suggests points for board and staff to discuss about their current practices. Progress worksheets assist nonprofits and foundations in making plans and recording their progress.
continueFinal Report of the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, 2005
This study incorporated input from thousands of people across the charitable community through field hearings and national conference calls, proposes a carefully integrated package of actions from charitable organizations, from Congress, and from the Internal Revenue Service. It recommends more than 120 actions for charitable organizations, by Congress, and by the Internal Revenue Service, which together would strengthen the sector’s transparency, governance, and accountability.
continueSupplemental Report of the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, 2006
This document extended the Panel's Final Report and focused on nine areas, including international grantmaking and charitable solicitation. As with all of the Panel’s reports, the more than 30 recommendations incorporated input from people across the charitable community.
Other publications
on accountability

Governance is Governance (2001)
Originally a speech by IS Board Chair Kenneth Dayton, this document, which also includes an interview with Dayton, addresses the work of an organization's executives, staff, and board in creating strong, effective governance.


Obedience to the Unenforceable: Ethics and the Nation’s Voluntary and Philanthropic Community (2002)
Revised from 1991 edition. As the introduction of the document says, “While much else has changed, the fundamental principles of ethical behavior have not.”


The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Implications for Nonprofit Organizations (2006 -- revised version)
Created by BoardSource and IS, this document examines the relevance of Sarbanes-Oxley to nonprofit organizations.

Giving and Volunteering

Independent Sector was central to the development of accurate, relevant data about the role of the nonprofit community.  Although other organizations have now assumed this important function, IS's reports on these topics remain relevant for many organizations.  In addition, the

America’s Family Volunteers (2001)
This study found that a person’s family experience affected his or her giving and volunteering behavior for life.

America’s Religious Congregations: Measuring Their Contribution to Society (2000)
An examination of the scope of religious congregations, including expenditures, unique qualities, and results measurement.


America’s Senior Volunteers (2000)
Study looked at giving and volunteering for people over age 55.

Giving and Volunteering in the United States (2001)
This multipart series provided a comprehensive picture of the giving and volunteering habits of Americans.  This page also offers ordering instructions for the dataset from which the report was generated.

Measuring Volunteering: A Practical Toolkit (2001)
This handbook, produced jointly by Independent Sector and United National Volunteers, is designed to empower countries to produce their own data to underpin policy measures related to volunteering.


communications and outreach

The Sixty-Second Guide to Working Effectively With the News Media
These quick tips are designed to help staff and volunteers build good media relations.

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