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    501commons.org    info@501commons.org    1-888-462-4853

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Element 1 - Governance & Boards

1.1 MISSION/VISION                                                                                                                                      

Note: Mission is the problem that the organization is trying to solve; Vision is what the world would look like if the organization succeeded.


Does your organization have a mission/vision statement that is easily understood and recalled and that includes these three components:

1) The problem your organization exists to solve

2) What you do and who you serve, and

3) What results you are trying to achieve?

AND

Does the board regularly review the mission/vision statement and use it to guide decision-making?

1.2 BOARD ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

Do board members develop written board processes and policies (including the bylaws) that they review periodically and follow closely?

AND

Do board members understand their roles and responsibilities?

Has the organization agreed upon a process to resolve impasses in decision-making?  Does the process define what events will trigger the process, who can invoke it and what steps to take?   

1.3 BOARD CHARACTERISTICS

Do board members have the diverse characteristics, community connections, and experience needed by the organization? 

1.4 STRATEGIC ISSUES AND ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE

Note: A “consent agenda/calendar” consolidates routine matters into one item on the board agenda.  The purpose is to allow board meeting time to be spent more efficiently.


Does the board organize its work so that it can focus on strategic issues and on understanding organizational performance? For example, does the board review reports before meetings, use a consent agenda/calendar, and approve a strategic plan?      

1.5 BOARD DEVELOPMENT

Does the board have a committee that is actively engaged in board development, including ongoing board recruitment, board education and annual self-evaluation?

1.6 ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT BY BOARD MEMBERS

Do board members provide support to the executive and to the organization by making a donation, assisting with fundraising, and promoting and representing the organization in the community?  

1.7 ALLOCATION OF AUTHORITY TO THE EXECUTIVE

Has the board clearly and effectively delegated authority to the executive so that the executive can lead the organization and make needed day-to-day decisions?    

1.8 EXECUTIVE EVALUATION

Is the executive evaluated annually using clearly defined performance measures that are agreed upon in advance?      

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Element 2 - Fundraising & Financial Management

2.1 DIVERSE AND STABLE FUNDING

Note:  Diverse funding refers to having several types of funding e.g. grants, earned income, individual donations, and events. Stable funding means the overall budget is about the same from year to year or grows.


Does your organization have a fundraising plan which has demonstrated the ability to reliably produce the levels of funding required?

Are revenues in the budget based on a written plan and a grants and fundraising calendar with projections for each type of fundraising? 

2.2 DONOR STEWARDSHIP

Note:  Donor preferences include such information as type and frequency of contact, specific interests, desire for anonymity etc.


Does your organization honor its relationships with donors by regularly demonstrating gratitude for their generosity and informing them about the impact of their philanthropic “investment”?

Do you have a system to record biographical information and donor preferences?

Do you provide public recognition to donors? 

2.3 CULTIVATING POTENTIAL DONORS

Note:  A “donor database” as a minimum includes information about past, lapsed and current donors, anyone who has made a financial or other donation to your organization.  It is often extended to include information about potential donors, people whom you can expect to be receptive to your mission.  The purpose is to increase the affinity between your organization and your donors and prospects. Moves management is an orderly plan to increase the level and frequency of giving.


Does your organization have a donor database that includes detailed information about potential donors? Does the organization regularly establish targets for the number of fundraising contacts?

Do you regularly share information about the organization and make a proposal or ask based on information in the database?

Does your fundraising plan include a moves management approach?  

2.4 CHARITABLE DONATIONS AND GIFT ACCEPTANCE POLICIES

Note:  A gift acceptance policy clarifies what types of gifts may be accepted, how the organization avoids conflicts of interest or potential damage to donors in the acceptance of gifts.


If your organization solicits charitable donations from the public, does it comply with the Washington Charitable Solicitations Act, including annual registration and reporting?

Specifically:

Does the organization promptly acknowledge in writing gifts of $250 or more?

Does the organization comply with IRS regulations regarding receipts to indicate both whether or not goods and services were received in exchange for financial donations and the value of those goods and services?

Does the organization have gift acceptance policies?      

2.5 FINANCIAL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Note:  Financial policies include things like multiple reviewers, separation of duties in handling checks and payments, monitoring credit cards etc.


Does your organization have written financial policies and procedures that are rigorously followed in order to minimize the risk of fraud and theft, detect errors, and make processes efficient?

2.6 FINANCIAL REPORTING CAPABILITY

Note:  Reporting falls into three categories

1) Financial reporting (GAAP);

2) Management reporting for internal control purposes, and

3) Tax reporting.


Does your organization have the capacity to produce financial reports as needed for the overall organization and for each program?   

2.7 MANAGEMENT REPORTING

Note:  Includes monthly program reports and customized management reports.


Do the leaders and board members have access to internal management reports so they can understand the organization’s fiscal health and performance of programs?   

2.8 MONITORING FINANCIAL AND BUDGET PERFORMANCE

Note:  “Detailed” financial reports refer to both

1) Financial Reporting; e.g. Statement of Financial Position and Statement of Activities, also known as the Balance Sheet and P&L or Income Statement; and

2) Budget Reporting; e.g.  Budget versus Actual.                                                                                                      


Is financial and budget performance monitored by the board using detailed financial reports?

Does the board have a good understanding of the organization’s financial performance?    

2.9 FINANCIAL RESERVES AND CASH FLOW MONITORING

Does your organization have reserves appropriate to the needs of the organization? Do you monitor cash flow and forecast the cash you will have available in the months ahead?   

2.10 BUDGETING AND FINANCIAL PROJECTIONS

Does the organization prepare an annual budget based in part on analysis of trends? Does the organization have a financial projection beyond one year?  

2.11 CLEAR BUSINESS MODEL AND TREND ANALYSIS

Note:  Business model refers to how an organization gets and uses resources to create value.


Do the staff and board regularly discuss the organization's business model and review fundraising, expense, and service level trends to guide budget development and management decisions?                

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Element 3 - Communications & Relationships

3.1 COMMUNICATION PLAN

Have you developed compelling key messages and defined the audiences you want to reach?

Does your organization have a communication plan and schedule that are aligned with your business/operational goals?

Are there regular vehicles for internal communications (internal newsletters, intranet, all-staff meetings) in place so that the leadership can keep the staff informed about the organization?            

3.2 WEBSITE, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND BRAND

Note: Brand is the visual and stylistic identity of your organization, which includes elements such as your logo, program names, tagline, messaging, colors, etc. that uniquely define your organization.


Do your website, social media and organizational materials/collateral communicate a clear and consistent brand unique to your organization?

Do you take full advantage of your social media sites and website for marketing, communications, and outreach purposes?

Do you have clearly defined goals for your online communications and are you tracking results?        

3.3 STORYTELLING AND COMMUNICATING IMPACT

Does your organization have the ability to tell stories about the organization and the impact of its work in a concise and visually compelling way?     

3.4 ORGANIZATIONAL STATURE

Note: Decision makers are funders, government officials, elected leaders etc.


Is your organization and its leadership well known in the community and among decision makers so you can advance your organization's cause or mission?    

3.5 PUBLIC POLICY IMPACT AND PRIORITIES

Does your organization understand the public policy issues related to your mission and how they impact your constituents?

Have you identified public policy priorities?    

3.6 CAUSE BUILDING

Note: Advocacy is an effort to shape public attitudes or behaviors, which may or may not require lobbying for changes in laws or rules (public policy).


Does your organization inspire people to join your cause? Does your organization actively engage the community in organizational planning, advocacy, and public policy work?

Are the leaders of the organization more interested in advancing our cause than in benefiting the organization?  

3.7 PARTNERSHIPS

Does the organization share its resources and knowledge, and work with partner organizations to achieve more and make better use of resources?             

3.8 VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCING

Are adequate resources allocated for managing the volunteer program including program staffing, volunteer supervision, staff training and volunteer recognition?    

3.9 VOLUNTEER PROGRAM EVALUATION AND PLANNING

Does your organization track and evaluate the success of the volunteer program and utilize the information for further program planning?  

3.10 TRACKING OF VOLUNTEER DATA

Note:  Volunteer data includes demographics, preferences, hours, contributions, etc.                                            


Is there a process and system for tracking and securing volunteer data?      

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Element 4 - Planning, Technology & Administration

4.1 GOALS AND STRATEGIC PLAN

Does your organization have short-term goals and a recent longer-term business or strategic plan in place? Does your leadership regularly monitor and report to staff and board on progress toward its goals?    

4.2 PROGRAM EFFECTIVENESS

Note:  Program evaluation often uses methods such as a logic model, a theory of change or an outcome framework.


Can your organization evaluate and measure the effectiveness of its programs in solving the problem your organization exists to solve?

Do you collect and analyze appropriate community input and data and integrate your analysis into organizational decision-making and advocacy?  

4.3 EMERGENCY PLAN

Does your organization have an up to date written agency emergency plan?

Is the staff fully informed about the plan?

Is staff given information on emergency preparedness for home and office?      

4.4 EMERGENCY INFORMATION, GO-KIT AND PROVISIONS

Note: GO-KIT is a file box or folder with the organization’s most important information in print form.


Can multiple people access online storage for emergency contact information, confidential client information and other documents needed in an emergency?

Is there a Go-Kit with critical information and documents including emergency contact information for staff and regular in-office volunteers?

Is a duplicate stored offsite?

Does the organization have at least 3 days of provisions?        

4.5 TECHNOLOGY INFRASTRUCTURE

Note:  Technology infrastructure refers to computers, servers, mail systems, software, network, internet speed etc.


Does your current technology infrastructure support effective day-to-day work?    

4.6 SECURITY AND DISASTER RECOVERY

Note:  Some examples of security measures: passwords for computers, Wi-Fi connections, and network access.  Anti-virus software. Backups of electronic files. Paper files kept in locked cabinets, etc.


Is your information secure, including your computers, network, and electronic and paper files?    

4.7 DATA COLLECTION AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Does your organization have an effective system for collecting and managing client, volunteer, and donor information?

Are the processes well defined and is privacy secured?

Are the roles among staff clear?    

4.8 DATA PROTECTION

Does your organization have written policies for complying with regulations governing data retention, deletion and protection for both electronic and paper files?      

4.9 PROGRAM DATA REPORTING

Does your organization have the technology necessary for managing and reporting key data about programs and clients?           

4.10 TECHNOLOGY BUDGET AND RESOURCES
Does your organization have a plan and a budget for technology maintenance and support and for the adoption of new technology?

4.11 FILE SHARING AND COLLABORATION

Note: Collaboration tools are Dropbox, SharePoint, OneDrive, Google Docs, Basecamp, Slack etc.


Does your organization have a well-organized method for digital file storage and sharing (in-house or cloud hosted)?

Do you use collaboration tools to assist staff in collaborating with each other or with others?

4.12 RISK ASSESSMENT

Note:  Examples of risks:  Fraud, legal action against the organization, physical hazards in the workplace, emergencies, loss of data.


Has the organization identified risks?

Has the organization put in place policies and procedures and taken other actions to reduce risks?

Are these regularly tested and reviewed?                

4.13 ETHICS

Does the organization have written policies that assure that the executive and the board are behaving ethically and in compliance with the law?

Important policies include those regarding:

1) conflicts of interest,

2) document retention,

3) whistleblowers,

4) inurement/private benefit.  

4.14 MAINTAINING NONPROFIT AND TAX EXEMPT STATUS

Note:  Mark N/A if the organization does not have state approval.


Does the organization comply with the state’s annual filing requirements, including annual charitable solicitations registration, if funds are solicited from the public?

Does the organization comply with federal annual filing requirements, such as Form 990, 990EZ or 990-N, as applicable?

If the organization lobbies for legislation, has it considered making the 501(h) election?          

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Element 5 - Management & Culture

5.1 RESILIENCY AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Are the board and the leadership resilient when the organization faces challenges or a change needs to be made?

Is the organization able to act swiftly, embrace change, and successfully navigate it?        

5.2 STAFF DIVERSITY

Note: If no staff, assess the diversity of volunteers


Given its size, is your organization's staff diverse in these characteristics:

1) age,

2) ethnicity,

3) race,

4) sexual orientation/gender expression,

5) religion, and

6) disability status?

Do you comply with non-discrimination laws?

Do you undertake additional efforts to recruit diverse job candidates including expressing a willingness to make reasonable accommodations?                                     

5.3 INTENTIONAL SUPPORT FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Note:  If no staff, assess this in terms of your volunteers.


Does your organization and leadership integrate diversity and inclusion in its policies and practices?

Do you have:

1) a statement of inclusiveness,

2) a written plan for ensuring a culture of inclusion,

3) training for staff on cultural competency and/or racism,

4) an internal staff group that works on inclusion?

5.4 ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE

Has your organization defined the values and behaviors that shape the organization's culture?

Do leaders demonstrate trust by sharing non-confidential information to help staff members work together effectively?

Do staff members feel supported?

When a conflict occurs, are staff able to solve it constructively?

5.5 DECISION-MAKING

Does your organization have a clear allocation of authority so that there is no confusion about who makes which decisions?

Do decision makers make a conscious effort to avoid having to revisit decisions?

Do decision makers call on the expertise and knowledge of staff members and stakeholders such as clients, volunteers, donors or funders, and community members appropriately?

5.6 STAFF RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

Does your organization have systems in place to support the recruitment of qualified candidates?

Do you have an explicit strategy for staff retention, including a budget for staff development?

5.7 JOB DESCRIPTIONS

Does your organization have up-to-date job descriptions that include these 5 components:

1) exempt or non-exempt classification,

2) the qualifications, knowledge and skills required to perform the job,

3) the core job responsibilities,

4) pay level or range,

5) any special demands associated with the job (frequent travel, lifting, standing etc.)?  

5.8 INTERVIEW PROCESSES

Note:  Implicit or unconscious bias occurs when the interviewer assesses the applicant based on the interviewer’s biases rather than the applicant’s objective qualifications. Behaviorally based questions are used to estimate the likelihood of future success by asking candidates for examples of similar situations in past jobs.


Do you use a structured interview process that is designed to avoid illegal questions and to reduce implicit or unconscious bias?

Do hiring managers ask each candidate standard questions based on the knowledge and skills required for the job?

Has information or training on interviewing and the use of behaviorally based questions been provided to hiring managers?

5.9 EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

Does your organization have an up to date employee handbook that includes at least the following components:

1) Organization mission and history,

2) Non-discrimination policies and reporting procedures,

3) Time off and leaves of absence policies,

4) Performance management, discipline and termination,

5) Health, safety and security,

6) Compensation and benefits,

7) Disclaimer that handbook is not a contract? 

5.10 NEW EMPLOYEE ORIENTATION

Does your organization have a standard process and written procedure for orienting new employees? Does it include at least the following components:

1) Organizational history, programs and culture,

2) A review of the personnel policies and benefits,

3) Orientation to office equipment,

4) Set-up and training on the technology used by the organization,

5) Emergency procedures and

6) Job specific training plan?      

5.11 FEEDBACK AND PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

Do employees regularly receive feedback?

Does the organization have a process of written performance reviews that includes the opportunity for employees to evaluate themselves?

Does the performance review process assess job performance and expected behaviors, allow the employee to establish goals for the next year, and identify areas for development?

Are supervisors provided with training for providing feedback and for conducting performance reviews?  

5.12 SKILL AND EXPERIENCE OF PERSONNEL

Does the organization have personnel with the right levels of skill and experience in higher risk areas such as finance, information technology and direct service roles like social work or health professionals?

Do these personnel have opportunities for continuing education and professional development?

5.13 STAFF COMPENSATION

Does your organization have an overall compensation strategy that includes:

1) A review of comparative salary and benefit data, at least for the nonprofit sector;

2) A policy or clear statement of where you want your salaries and benefits to be relative to the market (nonprofit or for-profit);

3) Where possible based on size, laddering of skill and pay levels that allow employees to progress in pay as they progress in skill level;

4) Consideration of a minimum pay level that provides a living wage in your community?

AND Have your compensation structure and salary levels been reviewed in the last two years? 

5.14 SUCCESSION PLANNING

Note:  For arts and cultural organizations that have Managing and Artistic Directors the succession process and board role needs to be in place for both positions.


Has your organization put in place a succession plan for the executive and other key positions to help ensure that the organization would not experience loss of key information, damage to relationships or organizational failure should there be unexpected or planned turnover in key roles?

In the case of the executive, has the board defined in advance its role and key processes in the event of an unexpected or planned departure?   

5.15 STAFFING LEVELS

Does the leadership gather outside data and seek input from staff in order to plan and adjust staffing levels?

Is this done when the budget is prepared and at least mid-year?  


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