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ABSTRACT

Nonprofits are a major part of the U.S. economy and they are not immune from corporate malfeasance controversies. Even Congress has expressed concern about the crisis in nonprofit governance. The nonprofit response to Congress has been a historic initiative recognizing critical challenges to nonprofit governance. In contrast to their for-profit counterparts, nonprofits are committed to missions serving the public benefit and not to shareholder profits. Accordingly, their missions and financial resources are intrinsic to their very existence, which is built upon the public trust. That trust is rooted in fiduciary responsibility and reflected in best practices. This article traces the history of the nonprofit public trust and fiduciary standards and examines principles of Sarbanes–Oxley and other best practices as they apply to nonprofits. The authors sampled 80 health-care nonprofit corporation web sites from eight asset classes to determine compliance with Sarbanes–Oxley and identification of fiduciary duty, ethical values, and other best practices. Among the very largest health-care nonprofits, many comply with Sarbanes–Oxley and identify fiduciary duty, ethical values, and other best practices. However, there are substantial deficiencies in such compliance and identification among all remaining seven asset classes ranging from 99.9 million to less than 100,000. The results appear to corroborate the urgent necessity for reform articulated by the Congress and the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit governance has entered a new era where best practices must be implemented to sustain the public trust.