A charitable organization has the responsibility to make its operations, finances, programs and activities available to the public. To capture and retain the public’s trust, it is important to maintain as much transparency as possible.
The Board has the responsibility to understand what information should be shared, publicly, and what information needs privacy and confidentiality policies. The Board should consider designating meeting time for discussion of the following matters in order to be clear and in agreement about such matters.
- There is an advantage to having a web site that discloses the mission, purpose and values statements. It is also a convenient place to market the programs and activities, as well to solicit donations. A challenge with this method is the time required to keep the site current and updated. This may be a worthwhile endeavor for a volunteer or a Board member – with staff oversight.
- The Board should discuss and decide if it has the established procedures for meeting certain legal requirements. That is, IRS Form 990 and 990-T must be available to the public (in case anyone inquires) for the last 3 years. IRS Form 1023, the application for exempt status, is also required, legally, to be available to the public.
- If an agency is covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) rules, it needs guidelines and policies for handling confidential documents.
- The Board may want to discuss the advantages of an Annual Report to share important information. Here, the issues might be the cost effectiveness of an Annual report versus the upkeep of a web site.
For further information about these subjects I recommend a web site www.boardsource.org, a wonderful source whose mission is ‘building effective nonprofit boards”.