Whether you’re struggling to prevent a month-to-month financial crisis, pay for infrastructure, or build reserve funds, financial sustainability affects your organization’s future.

Are you struggling to prevent month-to-month financial crisis, pay for infrastructure, or build reserve funds? Engage board members, finance staff, and other team members in working through this module to identify ways to take charge of your organization’s financial destiny.

Areas addressed include creating systems for monetary stewardship and accountability, orienting budget processes to achieve results, building the balance sheet, nurturing external financial relationships, and using financial models to make the organization’s fiscal condition clear. Stronger financial health supports program effectiveness and sustainability and helps make a better case for funder support.

step 1: Learn

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step 2: Collect Data


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step 3: Review Results

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Finances Principles and Proof Points

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Principle 4.1: The board and senior management take charge of their organization’s financial destiny. They articulate the value they deliver and develop overall strategies, tightly aligned with their mission, to support and sustain the organization.

4.1.1: My organization tracks major revenue and expense assumptions and key financial-health indicators. At least semi-annually, we assess our financial performance and make course corrections as necessary.

4.1.2: My organization’s financial plan is designed to help us generate the resources we need to deliver meaningful results—not just whatever resources are readily available.

4.1.3: My organization’s financial plan aims to maximize sustainable sources of revenue—so we’re not overly dependent on sources that are short term or subject to shifts at any time.

Principle 4.2: The board and senior management nurture the external financing relationships required to support their organization’s operations.

4.2.1: My organization invests time in building and sustaining relationships with current and prospective financing partners, such as donors, foundations, banks, and other financial services organizations. (We recognize that these relationships are critical during trying financial times.)

4.2.2: My organization understands and fulfills the requirements of our agreements with financing partners. When there are issues relating to such requirements, we are proactive in coming to a workable resolution with the financing partners.

Principle 4.3: The board and senior management establish strong systems for financial stewardship and accountability throughout their organization.

4.3.1: My organization’s CFO and finance staff have the requisite training, expertise, and systems to manage all financial affairs, including accounts receivable/accounts payable, budget management, capital budgeting, cash management, investment management, debt financing, third-party reimbursement (where applicable), grants management, and audit and compliance.

4.3.2: My organization’s board monitors financial performance through formal committees (e.g., finance, audit, and/or investment committees) with:

  • clear charters
  • different leadership, providing for diverse perspectives as well as checks and balances
  • a willingness to engage outside experts if needed.

4.3.3: My organization has clearly defined its fiscal policies and procedures. Management, staff with budget responsibility, board (especially audit and finance committees), and key stakeholders understand these policies and procedures. Our managers and CFO hold staff accountable for following these policies and procedures.

4.3.4: My organization’s CEO and some board members review the performance of our CFO (or equivalent) at least once a year. They assess against the previous year’s goals (individual and organizational) and set goals for the following year.

Principle 4.4: The board, management, and staff build and participate in budget processes that are oriented toward achieving results and not just conducting activities. This means allocating adequate resources for monitoring and evaluation. And it means making hard choices, especially in tough financial times, to direct money where it needs to go to drive the intended results.

4.4.1: My organization’s program managers develop, manage, and are accountable for managing their own budgets. The finance team understands our programs, the supporting operations, and the results we aim to achieve. They educate and support managers and staff in developing their area budgets, managing their expenses, and understanding the implications of their decisions.

4.4.2: My organization’s budget allocates resources for monitoring and evaluation to ensure we’re on course to deliver strong programmatic results.

4.4.3: My organization’s board finance committee reviews and has an opportunity to shape our budget before it goes to the full board for approval. Its oversight focuses on ensuring that all assumptions about revenues and expenses are reasonable and that the budget supports achievement of outcomes.

Principle 4.5: Senior management uses financial modeling to make clear and transparent the organization’s financial condition and, at any given point, predict how it will end the year (and what will make the prediction more or less reliable).

4.5.1: My organization has developed a multi-year financial plan that comprehensively considers critical cost, cash flow, and revenue assumptions.

4.5.2: My organization conducts a “what-if analysis” at least annually to prepare for the possibility of significant economic changes or other disruptive events—and then identifies ways to mitigate these disruptions if they were to occur.

Principle 4.6: The board and senior management share financial results transparently with key stakeholders at regular intervals.

4.6.1: My organization’s monthly financial reports include an analysis of financial performance, a variance analysis (plan/forecast versus actual results), and a cash-flow analysis. We share these reports with all leaders and appropriate managers.

4.6.2: My organization shares with the board quarterly financial reports that focus on critical financial issues, including actual and projected cash flows as well as operational or external issues that have financial implications.

4.6.3: My organization produces financial reports for external stakeholders (e.g., funders, lenders) in response to reasonable requests.

Principle 4.7: The board and management treat fundraising/fund development as a strategic function that requires focus, management, capital, and specialized skill sets. They craft clearly defined roles and goals for the board and staff.

4.7.1: My organization invests in a dedicated, disciplined fund-development function. It builds internal capacity so that the organization is not overly reliant on consultants or the heroic efforts of one staff or board member.

4.7.2: My organization manages to a fund-development plan aligned with our strategy. We ensure that our projected costs and revenues are structurally balanced and that we have sufficient liquidity to fund operations.

4.7.3: My organization’s board, management, and staff have defined—and are accountable for—their respective roles in fund development.

Principle 4.8: The board and senior management operate their organization at a surplus that allows them to continue to build a strong balance sheet with appropriate reserves.

4.8.1: My organization maintains an operating reserve to sustain cash needs for at least three months.

4.8.2: My organization reserves funds to cover the depreciation on buildings and equipment, maintaining capital reserves to cover planned and unexpected capital expenditures or major repairs.

4.8.3: My organization maintains a capital budget to quantify and plan for future capital outlays related to buildings and equipment.

Principle 4.9: The board, management, and key staff understand their organization’s cost structure, which aspects of it are required to produce high-quality programs and/or services, and how it aligns with reliable revenue sources for funding it year in and year out. They are relentless in making necessary investments with an eye to costs and benefits while being equally relentless in reducing unnecessary costs.

4.9.1: My organization continuously works to eliminate unnecessary costs and maximizes operational efficiency. My organization is good at distinguishing between expenditures that are essential for driving desired results and those that aren’t.

4.9.2: My organization understands the full cost of delivering programs and services (including all direct, shared, and administrative costs) and incorporates the full cost in our financial plan and supporting fund-development activities.

4.9.3: My organization’s leadership ensures that we only grow our programs when we can also grow our program capacity and administrative infrastructure—to ensure reasonable alignment of costs and revenues.

Principle 4.10: Senior management instills an organization-wide discipline of compliance with all regulatory requirements.

4.10.1: My organization annually reviews all applicable regulations and adapts internal procedures to ensure timely compliance.

4.10.2: My organization implements policies, procedures, and an accountability structure for managing government grants/contracts and financial obligations.


The Summary report shows the distribution of ratings for each proof point, gives a picture of the level of consensus, and opens the door to productive conversations about ways to move forward.


For a thorough understanding of individual perspectives, drill down to see each respondent’s ratings and comments per proof point.

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Module 4: Finances Principles and Proof Points


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