Nonprofit Accounting Basics

Board Accountability


Amy Kriz, CPA

American Petroleum Institute (API)

“The Buck Stops Here” phrase emphasizes the importance of accountability and holds true for a charitable non-profit organization board. Board members bear the ultimate responsibility for the organization’s actions and decisions and are entrusted with the duty of overseeing the non-profit organization’s activities, setting its strategic direction, and ensuring its long-term sustainability. The board must always act in the best interests of the organization and its stakeholders.

Accountability is directly tied to earning the public’s trust. Trust is earned through honesty and functioning in a transparent manner. Without trust there are no supporters. Without supporters, it is impossible to survive and advance the organization's mission. Sharing information freely, voluntarily, and proactively sends a message that the organization has nothing to hide and is following the laws and general ethical standards.

When the board assumes its role as the accountable body for the organization, it ties performance to meeting goals. With clear objectives and guidelines within a transparent structure, responsiveness and responsibility work hand-in-hand.

What to do:

  • Know the law.
  • Respect the donor's intent.
  • Publish an annual report and make it available to the public.
  • Comply with the IRS 990 regulations: file on time, fill the form accurately, and make it easily available.
  • Eliminate policy vacuums.
  • Monitor executive compensation.
  • Adopt a code of ethics and conflict-of-interest policy.
  • Understand the value of diversity.
  • Draft performance indicators and set measurable goals.

Additional references:
(please see also section on Code of Ethics under Policies)