Florida Principles and Practices

In 1995, with the assistance of several universities from across the country, the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations (FANO) became the first state association of nonprofits to develop a certificate in nonprofit management program. The Certificate was FANO’s effort to establish a set of management practices to build the accountability and excellence in the Nonprofit Sector in Florida. Other states have not reached this level of training however they have established the underpinnings of such a program. The original model is from Minnesota and it includes standards for strong public accountability. (Other models based on the Minnesota model are: Michigan and South Carolina)

About Principles and Practices:
The Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence are based on the fundamental values of quality, responsibility and accountability and includes ten characteristic accountability principles that distinguish the nonprofit sector from government and the business sector. It also includes 133 management practices, specific guidelines for individual organizations to evaluate and improve their operations, governance, human resources, advocacy, financial management, and fundraising. When compared to our certificate in nonprofit management, it is very similar.

FANO (now Florida Association of Nonprofits / Florida Nonprofits) adopted a similar Principles and Practices Policy:
By discussing and adopting a Principles and Practices Policy Florida Nonprofits: 1) Helped to provide individual organizations striving for excellence with a tool for strategic planning and operational evaluation relative to the rest of the nonprofit sector; 2) Helped support the growth and quality of the sector; and 3) Helped to increase public understanding of the role and contributions of the nonprofit sector. In general, The Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence are designed to support the effective functioning of our sector by recommending specific best practices.

The Process:
FANO organized a committee representing the diversity of the nonprofit sector, and did extensive input gathering from statewide nonprofits in person and by Internet surveys. After FANO board approval, the Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence were adopted. The critical role of nonprofits in democratic societies underscores the importance of knowing how to form, govern and manage these organizations. The growth and progress of the nonprofit sector depends on developing and improving this body of knowledge. Since its founding by Florida’s nonprofits, FANO has provided research, education, and technical assistance to strengthen nonprofit management and governance. The Principles and Practices will form an ongoing framework for Florida Nonprofits’ trainings, publications and other educational materials.


  • Nonprofit organizations are essential to the vitality of communities. They enrich quality of life, epitomize the highest societal values and strengthen democracy. Volunteers, board members and employees become involved with a nonprofit because of the organization’s public benefit mission.
  • Floridians join together throughout the state to form associations and organizations of every type.
  • Every nonprofit organization needs a strong foundation of compliance and a broad organizational awareness of laws and regulations related to fundraising, licensing, financial accountability, human resources, lobbying, political advocacy, and taxation.
  • The Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence are of particular interest to 501(c)(3) organizations.
  • The information and concepts apply broadly to all types of nonprofit organizations. Because of the sector’s diversity by size, region and activity area, each organization will be encouraged to determine whether or not an individual practice is appropriate for its current situation.
  • Paul Light of New York University and the Brookings Institution describes “the need for nonprofits to work at excelling at their most important attributes — that is, to become more “nonprofit-like” as opposed to being more business-like or bureaucratic.”
  • The continued success of Florida’s nonprofit organizations requires broad public support and confidence. This document publicly testifies to the nonprofit sector’s commitment to excellence — always for the benefit of society.

Thank you to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for generously supporting FANO, Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations, in the development of Florida’s Principles and Practices Policy.

The Origins of the Principles and Practices:
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits began this document on nonprofit accountability at its 1993 Annual Conference. They continued to develop it through community meetings, workshops and discussions throughout the state. Under the leadership of Dr. James P. Shannon, MCN joined with two organizations — the Charities Review Council of Minnesota and MAP for Nonprofits — to convene discussions on nonprofit standards and to develop principles of sound nonprofit management and accountability. The first draft of the Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence was circulated to nonprofit and philanthropic leaders throughout Minnesota and the United States in October 1994 and was approved by MCN’s Board of Directors in October 1998.

James V. Toscano and Marcia Nottingham chaired the original Committee on Nonprofit Standards, whose members included Judy Alnes, Angela Bies, Eve Borenstein, David Brown, Jennifer Gillespie, Betsy Jaros, Anne Long, Jon Pratt, Lois Schmidt, Laura Waterman Wittstock, Michael Wirth-Davis, and Reid Zimmerman.

In 2004, James V. Toscano also led the charge to revise the Principles and Practices and was assisted by Stephanie Tribby-Walbridge with input from nonprofit leaders, including Marcia Avner, Kate Barr, Shelly Dreyling, Christine Durand, Stephanie Haddad, Audrey Kintzi, Anne Long, Craig Luedemann, Nan Madden, Ellen McVeigh, Leslie Nitabach, Jon Pratt, Sondra Reis, Sheila Smith, Melissa Stone, Bao Vang, and Reid Zimmerman. Copyediting of the revised version was provided by professional editor Steve Gansen.

Thousands of copies of the draft of the revised version of the Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence were delivered to MCN members and the public via the Web and mail, and discussed in feedback sessions held in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Mankato, Grand Rapids, and St. Cloud. The comments and suggestions gathered from MCN members and the public informed the final draft of the revised version, which was approved by the MCN Board of Directors on March 15, 2005.

Copyright (c) 2008 by the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by means electronic or mechanical without the written consent of the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

Principles for Florida Nonprofit Excellence

To see the practices that relate to each of these principles, please click here for the entire 28-page publication.

Note to Readers: Please be aware that certain words have particular meanings in this document:
“Must” is used to describe practices required by state or federal law.
“Should” is used to describe highly recommended practices.
“Constituents” describes people with a stake in the success of the organization, and may include members, neighbors, clients, volunteers and contributors.

Role in Society:

Nonprofit organizations provide unique opportunities for individuals to combine their energy, talents and values for community improvement and enrichment. Nonprofits are obligated to understand their role as entities that engage and inspire individuals and communities for public benefit, and to conduct their activities with transparency, integrity and accountability.

A nonprofit’s board of directors is responsible for defining the organization’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization. Each nonprofit board should:
1) actively set policy and ensure that the organization has adequate resources to carry out its mission;
2) provide direct oversight and direction for the executive director and be responsible for evaluating his/her performance; and
3) evaluate its own effectiveness as a governing body, as a group of volunteers, and as representatives of the community in upholding the public interest served by the organization.


Organizational planning sets the overall direction, activities and strategies a nonprofit employs to fulfill its mission. Nonprofits have a duty to engage in sound planning, define a clear vision for the future and specify strategies, goals and objectives for plan implementation. Planning should incorporate input from constituents and should be intentional and ongoing to successfully position the organization to achieve its goals.

Transparency and Accountability:

Nonprofits have an ethical obligation to their constituents and the public to conduct their activities with accountability and transparency. Nonprofits should regularly and openly convey information to the public about their mission, activities, accomplishments, and decision-making processes. Information from a nonprofit organization should be easily accessible to the public and should create external visibility, public understanding and trust in the organization.


Nonprofit organizations provide opportunities for individuals and institutions to voluntarily contribute to causes of their choosing. 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 and open, transparent communication with contributors and other constituents.

Financial Management:

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

Human Resources:

The ability of an organization to make effective use of the energy, time and talents of its employees and volunteers is essential to accomplish the organization’s mission. Nonprofit organizations should place a high priority on exercising fair and equitable practices that attract and retain qualified volunteers and employees. Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all applicable employment laws and to provide a safe and productive work environment. Each nonprofit organization should establish specific policies and practices that promote cooperation and open communication among employees, volunteers and other constituents so that they can effectively work together to advance the organization’s mission.

Civic Engagement and Public Policy:

Nonprofit organizations play a central role in the democratic process by providing a means for individuals to deliberate on 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.

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 capability to achieve desired results. Nonprofits should initiate and promote cooperation and coordination between a variety of entities to avoid unnecessary duplication of services and to maximize the resources available to the communities they serve.


Nonprofit organizations have proven to be highly effective at a wide variety of tasks that benefit society. An essential responsibility of every nonprofit organization is to assess the impact of its actions and to act upon this information. The public has a stake in nonprofit performance and is entitled to information regarding organizational results. Nonprofits should regularly measure their performance against a clear set of goals and objectives. They should share this information with their constituents and the public and use it to continually improve the quality of their processes, programs, and activities.

Please click here for the entire 28-page publication

Certificate in Nonprofit Management

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