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Accountability critical

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By Karen Ponder

Nonprofits face an era of increasing accountability — not just on results, such as the number of meals served or people clothed, but accountability for every penny spent.

Over the past 10 years, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, the state’s Smart Start office, has learned to embrace this increased call for accountability and incorporate accountability into the culture of the organization.

Smart Start has one state office that provides oversight and planning assistance, with local partnerships that are independent 501(c)3 organizations.

Our program requirements are legislated and stringent, with overall administrative spending limited to 8 percent of annual budget.

When the program began, we faced the challenge of creating the first-ever comprehensive approach to early care and education, as well the challenge of learning nonprofit management.

This learning curve has been steep.

State auditors annually audit our organization and perform bi-annual audits on all 81 local partnerships.

There is now an entire section in the State Auditor’s Office dedicated to Smart Start.

This year, for the second straight year, the auditor’s office announced our organization had obtained the highest audit rating possible, meaning the we had demonstrated superior administrative capacity.

Fiscal responsibility is important for an organization.

The ability to tell potential givers they are contributing to an organization that provides excellent service and manages money well helps, for example, when competing for grants.

Making accountability a cornerstone in an organization’s culture sends the message to future employees, funders and consumers that an organization accepts and honors responsibility.

Accountability is critical to being able to achieve your mission.

When an organization creates and maintains a high level of fiscal responsibility it sets a high standard.

That standard establishes an atmosphere of results and those served by the organization benefit the most.


Karen Ponder is president of the North Carolina Partnership for Children.

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