3 questions to ask of your whistleblower policy

Good governance requires accountability and trust. Your employees need to know that if they think something’s amiss, they won’t be punished for acting on their consciences. You need to reassure your employees that they can safely point out wrongdoing, just as you need to reassure your donors that there is no malfeasance in your company.

“A whistleblower policy is created to allow an individual within or otherwise associated with an organization to raise a concern without fear of reprisal about a fraudulent or other inappropriate practice which they believe is being conducted within the organization,” said Jerry O’Neil, partner at accounting firm O’Connor Davies. O’Neil said that in order to get the most out of your whistleblower policy, ask these three questions

How do you communicate its existence and importance? It’s not enough to just stick it in the employees’ handbook. How many actually review the handbook after being hired? A better way, said O’Neil, is to publicize it on your public website or internal intranet.

To whom should a whistleblower communicate his or her concerns? This varies per organization, but O’Neil said some nonprofits provide a board member to contact and others use an outside service. “It is very important for people to be able to present their concerns anonymously—without fear of reprisal,” said O’Neil.

How do you monitor the ongoing use of your policy? O’Neil recommends that your audit committee review any complaints brought forward. “Even if there is no activity at all, this periodic monitoring can allow those charged with governance to fulfill their responsibilities and perhaps question if the existing policy is indeed functioning as intended,” said O’Neil.