Louisiana Association for Nonprofit Organizations (LANO) Standards for Excellence Program

(Shreveport, LA)- Shreveport Green is working to achieve LANO organizational certification.


Category: Management Practices
OVERVIEW
Shreveport Green is working to achieve organizational certification through the Louisiana Association for Nonprofit Organizations (LANO) Standards for Excellence Program, an approved state partner to the National Standards of Excellence Program. The Standards of Excellence is an ethics and accountability system that trains and recognizes well-managed and responsibly-governed non-profit organizations.
Shreveport Green, like non-profits nationwide, recognizes that major donors are becoming more sophisticated about their giving choices. In the wake of corporate reforms sparked by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, business leaders expect that non-profit organizations follow corporate procedures for limiting risk, financial management, and accountability.
Pursuing certification through the Standards of Excellence program is helping Shreveport Green audit and enhance its management practices, and will earn the organization outside recognition that assures its donors that Shreveport Green is efficient and well-managed. This effort is already resulting in increased confidence and pride among Shreveport Green’s board members and enhanced community image.
BACKGROUND
Shreveport Green is a nonprofit organization dedicated “to improving the city’s environment and enhancing its economy through public education and community beautification, litter abatement and recycling projects.” It promotes tree planting and stewardship as a major component of community health and vitality.
Program activities include:
* litter abatement activities such as cleanups, educational curricula in the schools, placement of receptacles and community education presentations
* recycling promotion and community education including recycling tours and an annual household hazardous waste collection
* beautification activities such as special beautification areas, wildflower program, tree plantings, tree stewardship programs and environmental education in the schools.
From its inception in 1990, Shreveport Green presented a business-like and professional image. It paid attention to details such as company logo and letterhead and worked to attract businesspeople to its board. About six years ago, the executive director felt an increased need for training on corporate principles for organizational management. The local Community Foundation provided training and encouraged Shreveport Green to contact the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations (LANO), which was established in 1999 to “strengthen, promote, and build the capacity of Louisiana’s nonprofit sector through member services, advocacy and education.”
In 2001, LANO established the Louisiana Standards for Excellence program, an ethics and accountability program that describes best practices for operating nonprofit organizations. The program is based on a model developed by the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations, which is now being replicated nationwide through the National Standards of Excellence Program.
Shreveport Green has used these standards to refine and improve its operations over the last three years.
COMPONENTS
The Standards for Excellence covers eight areas of nonprofit operations:
* Mission and Program
* Governing Body
* Conflicts of Interest
* Human Resources
* Financial and Legal Accountability
* Openness and Disclosure
* Fundraising
* Public Policy and Public Affairs
Each month Shreveport Green’s board of directors reviews one of these areas. This gives the board an opportunity to learn where it stands in certain areas and how to improve, if necessary. This also serves as an excellent training vehicle for new board members. The process usually takes eight months, one for each standard. The board has reviewed the standards on an annual basis for the last three years.
RESULTS
The benefits to the organization have been both internal and external. Internally, this process has given the board a forum and structure for discussing management issues and has reassured board members that they are on-track and are legally protected. Board members feel a sense of pride that the organization is on top of these issues, which helps with board recruitment and retention. It has been an excellent educational tool for board members.
In addition, it has helped the organization prevent problems from happening. For example, discussions on conflict of interest policies can alert board members to possible problems before they arise. Likewise, employee manuals can clarify working hours, employee evaluations, or other concerns, reducing the likelihood of conflicts over differing expectations.
The Standards for Excellence program has also enhanced Shreveport Green’s image in the community. Supporters and other community members have confidence that the organization is being run in an ethical, accountable and professional manner. Certification will provide a recognized “seal of approval” that community leaders respect.
LESSONS LEARNED
1. The earlier you implement such a program in your organization, the better. It is easier to establish sound policies and practices from the start than it is to change practices mid-stream.
2. Customize practices to the comfort level of your board. Each organization needs to adapt the program to its own needs and those of its board. For example, what level of detail does the board want or need on budget decisions? This may vary from board to board. Some boards are comfortable with only the executive committee and/or the treasurer having access to line item detail. Other boards want that information available to all members on a regular basis.
3. Customize practices to fit the scale of your organization. Some specific practices may be impossible for small organizations to reasonably implement, but the core principles are possible even in all-volunteer organizations. Implementing best practices over time at your own pace will enhance your organization, even if you never pursue certification.
4. To request a copy of the Standards booklet, contact LANO at (225) 343-5266. Other state nonprofit associations can be found through the National Council of Nonprofit Associations at www.ncna.org. Check the National Standards of Excellence Institute website at www.standardsforexcellence.org for information about certification in your area. Another resource is www.give.org, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, which awards a charity seal recognizing adherence to the Better Business Bureau’s standards.
Contact Information:
Donna Curtis, Executive Director
Shreveport Green
3625 Southern Avenue
Shreveport, LA 71104
Phone: (318) 219-1888
Fax: (318) 219-1882
(c) 2005 Alliance for Community Trees