Raising The Bar

an editorial from The Jewish Week

‘Transparency” and “good governance” are two popular phrases these days in regards to policies of nonprofit organizations, particularly in the aftermath of the Madoff scandal.

It is worth noting a recommendation high on the list of the Jewish Funders Network’s recently issued guidelines for nonprofit and religious organizations seeking support from members of the JFN. It says that even religious organizations, which are not required by law to file 990 tax information reports, should perform an independent audit or financial review by a certified public accountant “regularly in a timely manner appropriate to the organization’s size and operations.” The guidelines add that “current financial statements should be made available to the donor upon request.”

Such a change would be welcome in our community, where numerous religious organizations choose not to divulge their financial information. Though perfectly legal, the policy is becoming increasingly out of touch with the mood and tenure of philanthropy today.

The JFN guidelines also call for the adoption and implementation of “ethics and standards of practice codes” that include “a code of ethics, conflict of interest policy, whistleblower policy, document retention and destruction policy and gift acceptance policy.”

These recommendations are important and should become the standard in our community, which prides itself, rightfully, on its philanthropic generosity, but has displayed some high-profile, embarrassing lapses when it comes to ethical practice.

This editorial originally appeared in The New York Jewish Week; reprinted with permission.