Human service organizations play a crucial role in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, and it is essential that they are well-manage and effective in their operations. One way that organizations can demonstrate their commitment to quality is by becoming nationally accredited. However, the costs associated with accreditation can be a barrier for some organizations, especially those with limited resources.
While the costs of accreditation can be significant, it is important to remember that accreditation can lead to significant organizational improvements. Accreditation helps organizations to identify areas for improvement, implement best practices, and enhance their service delivery. These improvements can translate into better outcomes for clients and greater organization efficiency, which can help to offset the costs of accreditation over time.
Read on for tips on how a human service organization may approach the costs associated with becoming nationally accredited.
Direct vs. Indirect Costs
It is important to analyze the annual costs associated with accreditation and determine whether they are feasible for the organization. This analysis should include both direct costs (such as application fees and onsite survey expenses) and indirect costs (staff time spent on accreditation-related tasks or improvements to facilities, for example). By understanding the costs associated with accreditation, organizations can develop a realistic budget and plan accordingly.
TIP: When comparing fees from different accrediting bodies, they can vary widely based on your organization’s size, breadth of programs, number of locations, budget, etc. When you have an estimate of fees from an accrediting body (AB) for your entity, it helps to divide by three if that AB has a 3-year cycle (such as CARF International or The Joint Commission) or divide by four for a 4-year cycle (COA Accreditation, for example) to better directly compare total fees.
New Program Development & Expansion
New program development / expansion may come about as a decision while conducting strategic planning, assessing needs of defined service population, staffing needs, and accessibility of services. These decisions may require additional staffing, resources, and facilities improvements, which can add to the overall cost of accreditation. However, these investments can also help organizations to better serve their communities, enhance their long-term sustainability, and ultimately lead to higher revenue.
TIP: Be sure that your leadership and board of directors have accurate and complete data to make informed decisions. It may seem like this does not need to be said, but sometimes organizations want to paint a rosy picture of how things are going. Be honest, make hard decisions when needed, and be sure that you are serving the current needs of your defined service population.
Improved Operational Efficiencies
Accreditation helps an organization use its resources more efficiently and can result in cost savings. Accreditation requirements for clear and detailed written procedures based on well thought out policies can enhance staff performance, improve outcomes, and lead to better communication with, and satisfaction for, the clients. These efficiencies can help retain staff, strengthen relationships with funding and referral sources, and aid in compliance with state or federal regulatory bodies.
TIP: States recognize the positive impact of accreditation and many offer regulatory relief from licensing / certification requirements. Check with your state licensing or certification representative for recognitions of accreditation.
Accredited service providers may be eligible for considerations on their insurance policies. The reason is that insurance carriers understand achieving accreditation leads to more robust risk management and risk mitigation efforts, a focus on health and safety, corporate compliance, and ethical business practices. This can lead to lower liability insurance costs over time, which can help offset the initial costs of accreditation.
There is a reason that the first question after the demographics (name, address) on an insurance policy application is “Licensure and Accreditations.”
TIP: You will need to inquire about considerations related to accreditation. If your broker is, for some reason, not familiar with the many benefits of national accreditation, they should be educated on it (feel free to share this article).
Two notes about grants. First, some foundations use accreditation as a qualifier to apply for a grant, while others may use accreditation as an internal selection criteria without formally stating it as a requirement. Why? Because foundations and other funders understand the benefits and importance of earning and maintaining accreditation.
Second, there are grant opportunities out there that can help offset the costs associated with accreditation. While you may not see grants specific to accreditation, many grants will cover some aspects of accreditation and / or fund ways to improve your service programs. The following are examples of areas addressed under accreditation, and a grant related to such can be earmarked to help defray costs:
- Technology and equipment improvements
- Strategic planning
- Quality management programs
- Capacity building
- Board development
TIP: The National Council of Nonprofits has a listing of grant research tools, including a listing of state associations of nonprofits, which provides links to state-specific grant databases and member discounts on grant research tools. https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/running-nonprofit/fundraising-and-resource-development/grant-research-tools. Also, Candid (formerly the Foundation Center) helps nonprofits find funders to support their work through their Foundation Directory (fee-based). https://candid.org
Facilities and Office Space
In some cases, organizations may need to make improvements to their facilities or office space in order to meet accreditation standards. This may require additional funding, which should be factored into the organization’s budget and fundraising plans.
TIP: Have someone other than the Facilities Manager do a walk-through of all residential and operational facilities to review against accreditation standards early on in the process. The “fresh eyes” approach can be very helpful, whether this is conducted by a staff member or an outside consultant.
Ensure Board & Leadership Buy-in
Finally, it is crucial to ensure that the organization’s board and leadership are fully committed to the accreditation process. This includes not only providing the necessary financial resources but also actively participating in the accreditation process and ensuring that the organization meets all of the necessary standards and requirements. Board and leadership buy-in are critical to the success of accreditation, and without this support, the accreditation process may be difficult to achieve or sustain.
Keep in mind, just because you do have board and leadership buy-in does not guarantee an easy road to accreditation, but if you do NOT have this buy-in, you are fairly definite to have problems along the way.
TIP: Meet with the leadership team and board of directors when first considering accreditation to discuss the benefits, accrediting body or bodies being considered, outline the timeline and process, review costs and allow them to ask questions, all with an eye toward building the all-important buy-in.
In conclusion, the decision to pursue accreditation is a significant one for any human service organization. While the costs of accreditation can be significant, they must be weighed against the benefits of improved service delivery, reduced liability risks, and increased organizational efficiency. By carefully considering the costs and benefits of accreditation, organizations can make an informed decision about whether accreditation is the right choice for them and ensure their long-term sustainability and success.
For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write Peggy Lavin @ firstname.lastname@example.org. This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.