Standard A14 Explained

Why is it important to have a process for addressing complaints promptly? Every organization at one point or another will receive complaints. Instead of viewing complaints as a nuisance, they can be seen as an opportunity to consider the organization’s activities and to make changes that could improve programs, services, or operations. Providing simple and meaningful ways for external stakeholders to express complaints will strengthen your organization’s reputation by demonstrating that it takes their needs seriously.1 Addressing complaints promptly also helps avoid escalation and is a sound risk management practice.

Why is it important for the board to be made aware of complaints received? Complaints that express dissatisfaction with an organization’s programs, services, or activities can inspire change, leading to improvements in an organization’s operations or ability to fulfill its mission.2 Reviewing complaints may also alert board members to risks they may not have considered. A complaints and compliments approach can allow both positive and constructive feedback to be captured and communicated to the board and other stakeholders.

From "Accreditation Preparation Workbook Section A: Board Governance,"  Katharine Zywert, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo at the University of Waterloo, 2013.

  1. “The Eye of the Beholder: Managing Reputation Risk,” Carlye Christianson and Melanie Lockwood Herman, Nonprofit Risk Management Center.
  2. “Uncommon Sense,” Melanie Lockwood Herman, Nonprofit Risk Management Center E-News, April 27, 2011


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