5 New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofits

Following up on our suggested 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Board, here are 5 (admittedly broad) resolutions for your organizations:

  1. We will review our mission statements and set of core values to ensure they are consistent with our activities and within all our publications.
  2. We will examine our activities, thoughtfully develop/improve ways to measure the impact they have in advancing our mission and our values, assess whether we need to modify/discontinue particular activities, and implement our decisions.
  3. We will be prudent with our financial resources, looking not only to short-term consequences but also to long-term health, even if this forces us to make difficult decisions now.
  4. We will do a better job of communicating our goals, priorities, achievements, and prospects to all of our stakeholders, making sure we target messages using various media according to the intended audiences.
  5. We will work to understand our place in the market and address our need to be collaborative and competitive in furthering our mission and acquiring sufficient resources to do so.

From a legal perspective, consider the following:

  • Our mission statements must be consistent with 501(c)(3) and may impose a charitable trust on funds raised.
  • Our activities must also be consistent with 501(c)(3) and may be subject to certain restrictions (e.g., electioneering), limitations (e.g., lobbying, insider compensation), and consequences (e.g., unrelated business income taxes).
  • Our fiduciary duties as directors and officers are owed to the organization (and not to any individuals), but they may shift to account for creditors if we are in the zone of insolvency. Our fiduciary duties also require us to act in the best interests of the organization above other interests, and meeting such duties must include advancing and acting consistent with the organization’s core values, which may include equity, inclusion, and civic engagement, and not acting to benefit our personal and private interests.
  • Our communications, including our website, social media, and government filings, may expose us to various risks (copyright infringement, defamation, perjury, internal conflicts, loss of support from certain donor groups).
  • Our collaborations need to be carefully constructed and evidenced to avoid liability for the actions of our co-collaborators.