Monday, April 2, 2007

Addressing Issues of Public Trust

In a thought-provoking article that appeared in the summer 2004 issue of Nonprofit Quarterly, author Diana Aviv discussed several key contributors to declining public trust in the sector:
  • Sector growth. It is out pacing available resources.
  • A lack of common standards. Perpetuating this challenge is the diversity of organizations, missions and operations within the sector.
  • Doing ‘business’ in the current fiscal climate. Public sector budgets are shrinking faster than philanthropic expansion. Alternative funding sources are needed.
  • Inadequate oversight and structural problems. Existing federal and state laws are not enforced.
  • Inadequate reporting on the sector. Identifying abuses is challenging within existing reporting structures.
  • Media scrutiny. High profile fraud and mismanagement cases have hurt the sector as a whole.

Aviv offered five recommendations for addressing those public trust issues:

  • Promote transparency. Find ways to identify and separate abusers from the ethical majority in the sector.
  • Demand stronger enforcement and oversight. Advocate for improved federal and state oversight and enforcement processes.
  • Improve self-regulation. Initiate a national effort to develop uniform standards of good practice.
  • Improve the practice of individual nonprofits. Individual organizations must be prepared to take voluntary action to become more accountable in key areas (e.g., governance, transparency, fund-raising, conflicts of interest).
  • Increase awareness. The sector must take steps to educate the public, policymakers and opinion leaders about the sector and its issues – including accountability.

One of the better starting points I’ve found for exploring accountability is Independent Sector’s overview of the issue, found here.

No comments: