What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a review process to determine if human service, healthcare or educational programs demonstrate their ability to meet defined standards of quality. Once achieved, accreditation is not permanent—it is renewed periodically to ensure that quality is maintained.

Requirements differ per accrediting body, but the intent remains the same: to validate an organization’s commitment to meeting accreditation standards that result in a higher level of performance. Accreditation standards have been researched, vetted and field-tested and are updated regularly, as necessary.

Earning accreditation specifies that the organization (or specific program) is appropriately managing its resources and is continually providing the highest levels of service to its clients and stakeholders. Being accredited provides credibility and helps validate and improve the safety and quality of care an organization provides.

Organizations need to demonstrate conformance with the accrediting body’s requirements by implementing the accreditation standards and undergoing an onsite survey or, more recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual review.

For human service and healthcare organizations, the broad purposes of accreditation are to establish quality measurement criteria and to raise the level of services and professionalism within a given profession or industry (QUALITY) and to ensure services are delivered in a safe manner and in a safe environment (SAFETY).

Becoming accredited offers organizations professional recognition for meeting the highest standards in quality service delivery while providing clients with an appropriate tool for effectively evaluating service providers. Organizations that achieve accreditation have reached beyond the minimum licensing standards and made a long-term commitment to strong management, program consistency, outcome measurements and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.

Accreditation standards address such areas as:

  • Leadership and governance
  • Financial controls
  • Facilities security and safety
  • Workforce development – recruiting, hiring practices, background checks, performance appraisals, training and supervision
  • Performance measurement and improvement
  • Client rights and confidentiality
  • Program administration and service delivery

With all of the needed information in-hand during a survey, the accrediting body will determine whether accreditation has been earned and, if so, will accredit the organization accordingly.

The entire process may take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete. For behavioral health and social service organizations, accreditation is valid for 3 or 4 years and there is another full survey at the end of each accreditation cycle.

While accreditation is generally a private (non-governmental), voluntary process, it is often a significant decision-making consideration by potential clients, individual donors, foundations, governmental funding agencies, and billing and private insurance companies.

Here are just a few of the businesses and nonprofits that value the benefits of maintaining accreditation within their respective industries:

  • Mental healthcare and substance use treatment facilities
  • Service providers for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities
  • Foster care and adoption agencies
  • Group homes/residential treatment for children and youth
  • Early childhood education centers and day care providers
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Medical laboratories and blood banks
  • Credit counseling agencies
  • Colleges and universities – must be accredited by one of the federally-recognized accreditors for students to be eligible for U.S. federal student aid
  • Continuing education providers
  • Museums
  • Aquariums and zoos – Accreditation from angelfish to zebras!

More often than not, many people don’t realize how often accreditation actually touches their lives. Accreditation is everywhere!

If you are ready to explore how accreditation could be a benefit to your organization or if you have questions about the process, please contact us.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   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.

Organizational Benefits to Becoming Accredited

Achieving accreditation offers human service organizations professional recognition for meeting quality standards in service delivery. It also provides clients and other key stakeholders with an appropriate tool for effectively evaluating service providers. Organizations that earn accreditation have reached beyond the minimum licensing standards and made a long-term commitment to strong governance, program consistency, outcome measurements and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.

Accreditation requires an organization to undergo an objective review by an independent accrediting body. Becoming accredited signifies that an organization is effectively managing its resources and enhancing the quality of life of persons served.

Engaging and Evaluating for Board Effectiveness

Nonprofit leaders and board members often ask about ways to maximize and maintain board member engagement. Furthermore, they ask about how to evaluate the board’s ongoing effectiveness. While there are a number of areas that go into developing an engaged and effective board, some of the initial key steps are outlined here.

How Do We Maximize and Maintain Board Engagement?

Build Teamwork to Make the Dream Work

It starts with having the appropriate people in place; without this thoughtfully constructed team of individuals, it becomes impossible to achieve a group that is able to work together cohesively and strategically.

In addition, how many nonprofits have members who have been on the board together for years and have never really gotten to know one another? Imagine how much more effectively a group like this could have guided their organization toward its mission had they been governing as a team rather than as acquaintances coming together for meetings, or to merely fill a seat at the table.

To maintain an effective board, there must be an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect among the members and the agency’s executive leadership team. Board members who enjoy interactions with one another and the organization have a higher level of trust and respect that will likely lead to quality participation and regular meeting attendance.

Ensure Commitment to the Nonprofit’s Direction

One of a nonprofit’s most valuable assets is its board of directors. To create this value, a board must be diverse, dedicated, and eager to assist your agency in fulfilling its mission.

Board members should not only be committed to the agency’s mission, but they should also be willing to support the nonprofit’s needs and understand what is expected of them as an actively involved member.

Clearly Communicate Involvement Expectations

Aligning expectations on both sides ins critical. Leadership needs to clearly understand what each member can and is willing to provide in terms of skills, time, and financial support (this means both direct giving and/or helping to raise funds) and successfully match those to the needs of the nonprofit organization.

The appropriate level of board involvement will depend, in part, on the size of the organization and its stage of development. A newly formed nonprofit or grassroots advocacy group will often require an “all hands on deck” approach, whereas a more advanced organization may focus more on maximizing the board members’ network of contacts and fundraising efforts. In either case, the legal and fiduciary oversight responsibilities of the board of directors must be considered priority.

Hold Effective Meetings

Meetings should be a positive use of the board members’ time. Discussions should allow for open debate and questioning, and time should be spent on strategic goal advancement, while not be mired in minutia or the detailed operations of the organization. For example, if a board is reviewing, debating, and approving agency procedures, they are operating on a micro-management level. The board should remain focused only on policy approval and developing and fulfilling strategic goals. There should also be an agreed-upon decision-making process to keep meetings moving forward, ultimately resulting in more effective meetings.

Plan for and Respond to Challenges

Developing and maintaining an effective and unified board requires consistent effort and a desire from each member to keep the interests of the agency first and foremost. This can become exponentially more challenging when starting out with ineffective or frustrated board members. It is important to be on the lookout for warning signs of disengagement or disenchantment as well as any new power struggles. Plan ahead about how you may prevent and handle some of these challenges.

Nonprofits often struggle with how to appropriately dismiss board members from their responsibilities when this becomes the necessary course of action. However, it can be done with time, thoughtful planning, and action. To plan for these situations, there is an entire process that must be in place to identify and recruit diverse, committed, new members. (contact us for additional information).

How Do We Measure Our Effectiveness?

In today’s competitive philanthropic environment, it is essential to regularly measure the functionality and influence of your nonprofit board and determine practices and strategies that will strengthen its impact. Conducting a thoughtful board assessment is a solid place to begin.

The following questions may help to better inform a board assessment:

  • Does each member of your board feel engaged and involved in the oversight of your organization on a regular basis?
  • Is your board directly involved in setting fundraising goals, and are they actively involved in the fundraising process as required by your nonprofit?
  • What are your board’s three greatest strengths, and how have these contributed to the overall success of your nonprofit?
  • What are your board’s three most significant weaknesses, and how have these held your nonprofit from operating at its optimal level?
  • Does your board culture encourage and welcome open discussion of issues, even when members are not in agreement?
  • Is there a mutual level of respect among all board members?

Developing relationships, establishing expectations, heading off potential challenges, and assessing board effectiveness are just some of the activities that will help foster an engaged, cohesive board of directors who can effectively contribute to fulfilling your nonprofit organization’s mission. For information on any of these questions or other ways to take your board to the next level of engagement and effectiveness, please feel free to contact us.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   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.

Educating Your Board of Directors

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Education forms the foundation from which most everything else is created, making it one of the wisest investments a nonprofit can expend its precious resources on. Taking the time to educate your board of directors is one way you can develop that foundation so they are best prepared to serve your organization and its clients.

Keep in mind that many nonprofits do not formally educate their board members. Often, a nonprofit will assume that if someone is professional or a leader in their industry that they also have the knowledge to be an effective member on the board. Ultimately, this assumption can lead to increased risk and liability for your organization.

If you’re not educating your board members, who is?

Some questions to reflect on when considering topics to educate your new board member (or existing members for that matter):

  • Does each of your board members clearly understand the organization’s mission, vision, services, and programs well enough to make meaningful contributions in a leadership capacity?
  • What do orientation materials for new members include, and how are they used for onboarding new people?
  • Does your organization have an inclusive, formal orientation procedure in place for all incoming board members?
  • How do you train your board members for ongoing success?

Here are some ideas to consider implementing as you think about educating your board:

  • Board members should be diverse enough to bring different skills to the table. That said, you may need to consider educating them on mission-specific areas of your nonprofit. For example, teach them about the foster care and adoption process, or about how your homeless shelter changes the lives of its clients for the better.
  • From day one, help board members understand their roles and responsibilities. Knowing what is expected of them will encourage the confidence they need to be the leaders that your agency – and your clients – are counting on.
  • Customize educational opportunities to fit the needs of your board. Applicable areas of concentration can include fundraising, financial literacy, governance, and strategic planning. More often than not, there are board members who do not understand how to read financial data reports and the elements contained within. Arming them with this knowledge will also give them insight on the importance of their fundraising efforts as well as strategic planning.

The more effectively you educate your board members (especially regarding the agency’s mission), the more they are able to share with others throughout the communities you serve. They can use their newfound knowledge to both inform and strengthen relationships on your organization’s behalf, both now and well into the future.

Next week: Now that you have your board and they’re well prepared, it’s time to ensure they are everything your organization needs. How to engage and evaluate for board effectiveness.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   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.

Telehealth – One Size May Not Fit All!

As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, technology-based service delivery – “Telehealth” (aka Teletherapy or Telemedicine) has quickly become a necessary mode of service delivery for behavioral health providers. One study reports that using telehealth for substance use disorder care has increased 1,400% during COVID. The tremendous uptick over such a short time necessitated a “learn as you deliver” approach for many providers. Now, eighteen months into the pandemic, providers are trying to transition into a new normal and evaluating whether they should offer online, in-person, or hybrid services. Lessons learned from the quick adoption of telehealth for behavioral health care indicate “one mode does not fit all”.

What will be the best mode of service delivery in the future?

In terms of patient satisfaction, it may be a mix. A Vista Research Group study indicates that patients receiving both face-to-face and telehealth treatment consistently rated their satisfaction more highly than those receiving only in-person care. “I see a tremendous variance in staff and clients’ perceptions, experiences, and value assessment of behavioral health telehealth service deliver,” says David G. Branding, PhD, CEO, JAMHI Health and Wellness, Inc.

Yet Behavioral Health Business reports that a market research study polled individuals receiving tele-behavioral health services and showed the majority – 84% – wanting to continue. Reasons for continuing virtual services include the convenience, lack of need to travel, and more comfortable surroundings at home. Carol Smith, one of Accreditation Guru’s CARF accreditation experts, says, “The organizations that I am working with report increased accessibility for their clients due to services being delivered virtually.”

But not everyone has equal access to, or comfort with, telehealth technology, per a RAND corporation study. “While the increased use of telehealth was widespread, some groups of Americans reported using the services less often than others,” said Dr. Shira H. Fischer, lead author and a physician researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.  “If telehealth use is going to remain high, we need to ensure quality of access, particularly for behavioral health care where education, age, and gender were all associated with levels of use.”

Indeed, behavioral health providers are hearing mixed reactions to continuing telehealth. As Colorado Behavioral Healthcare providers transition back to in-person service delivery, they are receiving mixed feedback. “Some staff and clients want to continue with virtual services, while other staff and clients want face-to-face services,” says Doyle Forrestal, Chief Executive Officer of Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council

As organizations adapt service delivery modes to changing environmental conditions, critical factors to consider are efficacy, client satisfaction, and accessibility. Dave Branding reminds agencies that no matter what mode(s) of service delivery are used, services must always be person-centered.

Accreditation Guru can provide knowledgeable, experienced, and efficient consulting for ay behavioral health organization on the path to (re)accreditation, regardless of your chosen service delivery.

We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us for more information.

Sources

  1. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, 2021 Mental Health Report Validates Surge in Mental Health Telehealth Visits During pandemic, healthcaredive.com (May 20, 2021).
  2. Conti, Joanna, Why Were Patients Dissatisfied with Telehealth-Only Addiction Treatment? vista-research-group.com (July 22, 2021).
  3. Coward, Kyle, 84% of Americans Want to Continue Getting Mental Health Care Via Telehealth Post Pandemic, BHbusiness.com (July 8, 2021).
  4. Fischer, Shira H., MD, Use of Telehealth Jumped as Pandemic Shutdown Begun, Use is Highest for Mental Health Services, Rand.org (January 11, 2021).

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   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.

Exploring Ways to Find Your Next Board Member

An effective board of directors begins with having the appropriate people in place. Without this thoughtfully constructed team of individuals, it becomes difficult to achieve a group that is able to work together cohesively and strategically.

Nonprofit leaders often find that looking for a nonprofit board member can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Using online resources, such as LinkedIn, may be a great place to start that search. This blog will discuss how to plan for, and explore, various resources for finding your next board member.

Before You Search, Analyze Your Current State

To save time and resources, do some analysis of the current state of your Board before launching into a search.  Here are some considerations:

  • Does your board currently have an adequate number of well-functioning board committees and/or other workgroups to support your organization’s operations?
  • What is the expertise, skill set and individual make up of your existing Board for current needs? Could the Board you have now potentially serve your future needs?
  • Do you have a mix of demographics, individual skills and interests, dedication to your agency’s mission, appropriate level of diversity and reflection of the population served by your agency?
  • Does your nonprofit regularly recruit new members? If so, by what process? Is a standardized interview conducted and a set of standard questions asked? How can you use those questions to also inform your search?

Recruitment Tips

Ideally you already have a pool of potential board members who are already passionate about your mission. People who may be interested in a board positions include, but are not limited to:

  • Current volunteers
  • Someone in your donor network
  • Connections of current board members
  • Someone who represents of the demographics of the community served

Individuals may need to be educated on what it means to serve on your board. Take the opportunity to train and mentor people about the reward of being a board member of your organization. Remember, it’s possible that a terrific potential board member has not stepped forward because no one ever asked them.

Board Connection Organizations

If you have exhausted the search for board members among your current pool of connections, it may be appropriate to use a board connection organization and online tools. A focused online search can be a great source for seeking out qualified, appropriate, new nonprofit board of director members for virtually any type of agency.

For one, LinkedIn’s service, LinkedIn Board Member Connect, aims to help streamline this recruitment process. Board Member Connect helps nonprofit leaders leverage their own networks and their board members’ networks to find the right skilled professionals to join their boards.

One of the benefits of Board Member Connect is the advanced search feature that allows you to target specific qualities while searching for your ideal candidate. For example, you can search for someone with legal experience, who works in the housing industry and is located in Greater New York City. There is also a “nonprofit interests” search feature that allows you to filter by professionals who have indicated their interest in board service.

To participate, you must be a registered U.S. nonprofit organization. With regard to cost, nonprofits are able to post board opportunities on LinkedIn for less than $50 per posting. BoardSource members can post an opportunity for free at their Board Recruitment Center. Impact Opportunity and BoardnetUSA are two additional, nationwide sites where you can post open board positions. You may also contact your local United Way or local community foundation for additional recruitment resources.

Once you have a solid list of places for outreach as well as people to connect with – the process may prove to be both less time-consuming and frustrating.

Good luck on your search!

Next week: You’ve found the best board for your organization, now what? How educating both new and existing members can positively affect your organization.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Jennifer Flowers @ Jennifer@AccreditationGuru.com / 212.209.0240.   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.

What is the importance of an annual plan?

While a strategic plan is the long-term framework for what is to come, an annual plan – or work plan – is staff-driven, designed with specific objectives, outcome measures, and areas of responsibility (including timelines) in order to provide the day-to-day guidelines needed to ensure the strategic goals are ultimately met.

Is Your Organization Staying Competitive in Today’s Environment?

In today’s increasingly competitive environment, health and human service organizations often struggle to distinguish themselves. Providing high quality services is a given, but to establish your brand, you must demonstrate that you make a difference in the lives of those you serve.

Some critical factors that can help maintain your organization’s competitive edge include earning national accreditation, reporting on service outcomes (not just outputs) and recruiting and maintaining a qualified, well-trained workforce.

Accreditation

Achieving accreditation affirms that child welfare, behavioral health, employment and community service organizations meet or exceed professional-grade quality standards in service delivery. It also gives clients and other key stakeholders an appropriate tool for effectively evaluating service providers.

Organizations that earn accreditation reach beyond minimum licensing standards and make a long-term commitment to strong governance, program consistency, outcome measurements and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.

Accreditation requires organizations to undergo an objective review by an independent accrediting body. The designation signifies that agencies effectively manage their resources and enhance the quality of life of the population served.

Individuals and families increasingly regard the accredited status of an agency as an important factor when considering where to seek services.*

Performance Improvement and Reporting on Outcomes

With detailed digital data available just a few clicks away, health and human service organizations are being held accountable for measuring service outcomes – not just outputs. This new development requires the collection and analysis of relevant data to discover trends and patterns. The key is to make improvements (or expand upon achievements) where necessary.

Outputs are quantifiable data points related to the numbers of people served, frequency of home visits made, time in care and other common variables. However, outputs measure the impact that services have on the lives of those in care or treatment, including knowledge transferred, behaviors changed, improved homelife stability and other revealing and quantifiable data points.

In fact, all organizations seeking to gain and maintain accreditation are required to record and report outcome statistics as part of their performance improvement programs. Compiling performance indicators in a transparent, easy to understand manner will help service providers connect with clients, families and donors in a meaningful way and, in turn, allow them to be more competitive.

In the nonprofit arena, the relationship with donors has been forever transformed by technology and the unyielding desire for increased information that supports educated giving decisions. Providing reports on outcomes can also help non-profits tell their story and compete for hard-won donor dollars.

Qualified Workforce

Recruiting and retaining a well-trained, qualified workforce is the key to providing high quality services, reducing operational and programmatic risk, maintaining an organization’s reputation and contributing to institutional stability.

To attract talented employees, agencies should institute standardized recruiting procedures, conduct primary-source verification of education and licensure, perform background checks and review criminal history records for those individuals who work directly with vulnerable or at-risk people and develop effective onboarding processes.

In the health and human service field, top-quality employees aim to work for nationally accredited entities, an achievement that demonstrates your organization’s commitment to quality and to investing in its workforce.

It is easier to retain a qualified workforce by focusing on training, staff satisfaction, professional development and transparency. Investing in your people will foster a more stable workforce and enhance the quality of provided services – all of which helps make your organization more competitive.

Summary

Implementing steps to retain your organization’s competitive edge takes time and effort, but think about the alternatives: If you neglect the opportunity to continually improve, your reputation will ultimately suffer.

Earning national accreditation provides a framework for improving operations, measuring and reporting on outcomes, recruiting and supporting employees and providing quality services – which help maintain your organization’s competitiveness in an ever-changing environment.

For assistance preparing for national accreditation, or with any of the items mentioned in this article, please contact us at Info@AccreditationGuru.com.

* See our article on using accreditation as a marketing tool for more information.

Team Member Highlight – Tracy Collander

Tracy Collander

Tracy first became familiar with the accreditation world when she began working for Gateway Foundation in 2007.  Gateway Foundation is accredited by The Joint Commission, and she became familiar with TJC behavioral health accreditation during her 6 years as executive director for Gateway Aurora.

Her knowledge of accreditation became much stronger as she became Executive Director of The Joint Commissions Behavioral Health accreditation program, as she had the opportunity to work closely with the accreditation team, behavioral healthcare leaders, and advisory members.  Now that she is back in the field, she continues to value accreditation as a road map to leading a safe, high quality organization.  She believes this is critical for engaging a team that is invested in providing the best care possible to people in need.  Her Joint Commission experience has been so valuable to her as a leader – it reinforces her resolve to provide the best possible leadership to her team in support of the care that people deserve to receive.

She enjoys spending time with her two teenage boys, husband, and dog.  Her boys are both involved in sports, so much of their free time is spent cheering on their baseball/basketball teams locally or on the road.  When at home, they love watching movies together or hanging out with friends.

She also enjoys outdoor activities – gardening, walking her dog, running, golfing…boating when they have a chance to get to a lake… hiking when she visits her brother in Oregon or sister in Arizona…and skiing when it snows in the Midwest or when they travel to visit her siblings.  Both her husband and Tracy are from big families, so there is often a birthday, holiday, or other event to celebrate as well!

When she has downtime, she loves to read (or listen to books on Audible when driving), particularly suspense books, historical fiction novels, and leadership books.

We are happy to have Tracy on the Accreditation Guru team!