By Kim Williams, Senior Associate, Member Services and Certifications
Membership in the National Health Council by voluntary health agencies (VHAs), which are also known as patient advocacy organizations, is contingent upon their participation in the Standards of Excellence Certification Program®. To apply for membership, all prospective VHAs must first meet 10 Standards that specifically focus on governance and accounting.
Half of these 10 minimum Standards are requirements for basic governance procedures that ensure patient organizations are stable and well run. This includes the basic premises behind developing a nonprofit organization, like creating bylaws, hiring a chief staff executive, and engaging in programmatic work. There should also be a cohesive agreement between the VHA’s national office and any chapters or affiliates to cover any conditions for operating independently. A volunteer Board of Directors that frequently rotates should ensure that these measures are all in place.
The other half of the minimum Standards include accounting provisions to confirm that these organizations maintain their finances in accordance with commonly accepted nonprofit practices. These Standards include meeting IRS 501(c)(3) public charity status and performing an annual audit of national office operations by an independent public accountant. Fundraising is also a focus, as VHAs are funded by public support, with industry-specific recommendations for the amount organizations should spend on fundraising and program services.
The National Health Council’s VHA members all aim to exceed industry standards in organizational effectiveness, creating a membership of patient organizations that is highly valuable and worthy of public support. To learn more about the Standards of Excellence Certification Program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next in the Standards of Excellence blog series: a discussion of the responsibilities of a Board of Directors and best practices in governance.