Updated standards upgrade accountability, transparency for nonprofits

The Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) is rolling out updated standards designed to improve accountability and transparency with donations.

“Trust is one of the most important elements we can have in developing a relationship,” PANO Standards for Excellence Director Tish Mogan said. “And we have that relationship with the public.”

PANO has hundreds of members, including the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the YWCA. The YWCA gave ABC27 a statement supporting the updated standards saying, “YWCA Greater Harrisburg is steadfast in our commitment to operating a fiscally and programmatically sound organization. In 2004 we received accreditation from PANO and have maintained compliance with the 56 specific Standards for Excellence based on honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility, and accountability.  YWCA Greater Harrisburg has met, complied with, and integrated the Standards for Excellence into all its activities to successfully complete this voluntary certification program and would support initiatives that further advance transparency. As such, the proposed changes of requiring a Statement of Financial Position  are currently available for public view on our 990.”

Although organizations like this have good relationships with the community, in light of the recent cancer charity fraud cases in other parts of the country, people are seeking more accountability.

“I want to know where money is going when I contribute it to an organization,” Lea Hawk from Lewisburg said. “And I want to make sure the nonprofit is accountable for it.”

“Money does have a way of corrupting people,” Ricky Teats from Dauphin County said. “So, it’s a good idea to have that accountability and people would feel better about giving if they had that accountability.”

PANO says its updated standards have a clear goal.

“To provide governing boards and administrative staff with the education they need to be able to spot if there is a bad apple in the barrel, and remove the apple and keep the organization clean,” Mogan said.

PANO says the new standards include a bigger emphasis on leadership, training, and working with others. For example, an organization must be able to check off a clear mission statement and strict program and performance evaluations. More checks and balances won’t solve all problems, but they can mean fewer mistakes.

“Standards can only help where people want to do the right thing,” Mogan said.

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