Principles & Practices

Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Management Excellence was compiled by the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits over a two-year period after extensive research into the heart of the national and local nonprofit sector.  Within these pages are ten categories of principles, practices, strategies and compendium of activities to help any nonprofit reach excellence. Over 150 recommendations for best practices and principles are included. This document is also the cornerstone of our Excellence in Action Nonprofit Certification Program.  We encourage you to share this document with your nonprofit staff members, board members, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders that might be interested in helping your organization reach new heights.  

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Included are over 150 Recommended Practices for the following areas:

Planning & Purpose

Organization planning is a critical process that defines a nonprofit’s overall direction and activities to be employed to fulfill its mission.  Nonprofits have a duty to engage in soundplanning to define a clear vision for the future and specific strategies for reaching established goals.  Nonprofit planning should include input from constituents and should be intentional and ongoing to position organizations to achieve their goals. Nonprofits are obligated to understand their role as entities that engage and inspire individuals and communities for public benefits, and to conduct their activities with transparency integrity, and accountability. 

Board Governance

Nonprofit boards of directors are responsible for defining the organization’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization.  Nonprofit boards actively set policy and ensure that the organization has adequate resources to carry out its mission. The board employs and provides oversight and direction for the executive director without usurping authority to manage financial and human resources. Nonprofit boards have aresponsibility to evaluate their own effectiveness as governing bodies in upholding the public interest served by the organization.

Human Resources

Effective management of human resources is essential for creating successful organization results.  The board of directors is responsible for oversight of the executive director and he/she is responsible for oversight of paid or unpaid staff.  Nonprofit organizations should exercise fair and equitable human resources and volunteer (including board members) management practices that attract and retain qualified individuals.  Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all legal employment practices and to provide a safe work environment.  Nonprofit organizations should establish specific policies and practices that promote mutual cooperation to advance the organization’s mission.

Financial Management

Nonprofits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards in managing their financial resources. Nonprofits must comply with all legal financial requirements.  They should adhere to sound accounting principles that ensure fiscal responsibility and build public trust. Nonprofits should use their financial resources to accomplish their mission in an effective, efficient manner and should establish clear policies and practices to regularly monitor how funds are used.

Transparency & Accountability

As entities that serve the public, nonprofits have an ethical obligation to conduct their activities with accountability and transparency.  Nonprofits should engage in ongoing efforts or openly convey information to the public about their missions, activities and decision-making processes. This information should be easily accessible to the public and should create external visibility, public understanding and trust in the organization.


Nonprofit organizations play an important societal role in serving as the vehicles through which philanthropy occurs.  Nonprofit organizations provide the opportunities for individuals and institutions to contribute to a cause of their choosing.  Nonprofit organizations have an ethical obligation to ensure proper handling of funds to carry out their missions.  Nonprofit fundraising should be conducted according to the highest ethical standards with regard to solicitation, acceptance, recording, reporting and use of funds.  Nonprofits should adopt clear policies for fundraising activities to ensure responsible use of funds designated purposes and open transparent communication with donors and other constituents.

Public Policy & Advocacy

Nonprofit organizations play a central role in the democratic process by providing a means for individuals to deliberate of public policies and decisions that affect them.  To the extent possible, nonprofit organizations should engage constituents in public policy and advocacy activities as a means to fulfilling their missions and promoting community interests.  Open communication and consultation between policy makers and constituents of nonprofit organizations contribute to well-informed policies and the effective implementation of them. 

Information & Technology

A successful nonprofit manages information with regard to confidentiality, safety, accuracy, integrity, reliability, cost effectiveness, and legal compliance.  It incorporates appropriate technology into its work to improve its efficiency, efficacy and accuracy in the achievement of its mission, and has information systems in place that provide timely, accurate and relevant information.  

Strategic Alliances

The effectiveness of nonprofit organizations depends on successful relationships with other community institutions.  Regardless of form – partnership, collaboration, cooperation or coordination – these relationships or strategic alliances, can serve a variety of purposes, including resource sharing, policy influence, and improved operational efficiency. They strengthen both the capacity of individual organizations and the sector as a whole.  Nonprofits should be open to strategic alliances and when appropriate should partner with other organizations to strengthen their capacity to achieve desired results.  Nonprofits should initiate and promote cooperation and coordination between a variety of entities to avoid unnecessary duplication of services to maximize the resources available to the communities they serve.

Programmatic Effectiveness

As entities that serve the public, nonprofit organizations have an obligation to demonstrate their value to the public good.  The public has a stake in nonprofit performance and is entitled to information regarding an organization’s results.  Nonprofits should regularly measure their performance against a clear set of desired outcomes and should share such information with their constituents.  Nonprofit evaluation should be appropriate to the size and activities of the organization of the valuation of data should be used to continually improve the quality of processes, programs, and activities.