Advice for Users

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The Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence are meant to educate nonprofit leaders, board members, managers, volunteers, and staff about the fundamental roles and responsibilities of nonprofit organizations. As their adoption spreads, MCN believes they will strengthen both individual nonprofits and the sector as a whole.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is sensitive to the large amount of sometimes contradictory advice directed at nonprofits. MCN expects that the Principles and Practices will be useful to virtually every nonprofit organization as they form a set of reference tools that can be adapted to meet particular needs and circumstances.

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Clearly a large list of recommended practices presents challenges for small organizations with limited resources. Small and mid-sized organizations may have limited or no staff, or lack specialized positions to develop recommended policies and systems. To make this task more practical and achievable, MCN provides additional tools and resources on its website to help organizations prioritize practices for different sizes and stages of organizations. These tools address questions about why practices are recommended and the steps organizations can take to achieve them.

The creativity and diversity of the nonprofit sector and the significant variations in local conditions means that some practices may not fit every situation and will necessarily vary in application. In adapting and adopting the Principles and Practices, each organization will face dozens of specific choices about how to accomplish its mission and structure its work, requiring deliberation and modifications by board members and managers.

They are not intended for use by funders or by government to evaluate organizations nor are they intended as a substitute for the wisdom of directors or trustees of individual organizations. Nevertheless, the nature of nonprofit activity requires that organizations fully commit to public accountability and devote the time and attention necessary to be transparent and responsive to the community.

MCN welcomes your feedback. Please let us know how you applied the Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in your organization.

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, and is noted with a gavel symbol (An icon of a red gavel); the online version of the Principles and Practices will soon include direct web links to relevant federal and state statutes and reporting forms.
  • “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.