The Trust Certification
A new approach that significantly expands traditional process of auditing, with an emphasis on assessing the viability of the organization and its ability to instill trust by the community in the integrity of its leadership, its unique abilities to realize its vision, and its contribution to society.
The result: a useful analysis of the health of the organization, and its potential to achieve success and positively impact society through its goods and services.
The traditional financial audit has been mandated for recipients of the resources from investors and funders, but often the auditing process is staid and does not create trust in or added value to the organization. It is a document that due to its regulatory oversight is limited to a carefully worded "Opinion" regarding the financial statements and "Notes" which are intended to illuminate the information contained therein.
But the history of the audit has proven that while an organization may receive an unqualified opinion and present notes of sufficient detail, the actual financial condition of the organization and the actions of its board and management might not be found in its pages. Healthy organizations can have audit reports that paint a more alarming picture, and organizations in turmoil can present audit reports to investors and funders that do not relay the actual story occuring behind the scenes.
The Trust Certification concept envisions a process where the skilled auditor assesses the overall health of the organization. This proposed Certification looks behind the financial statements to the business and financial management of the organization and comments candidly about strengths noted and issues potentially threatening.
Investors, funders and the community thrive when three critical strengths are present in any organization:
Based on a clear justification of the need for their product or service, an organization's vision articulates how it intends to meet or exceed its customers' expectations, and defines the organization's unique, competitive advantage to accomplish this. The Trust Certification moves beyond simple financial auditing to establishing the organization's success in doing this.
The assets of the organization, seen as precious and essential resources, are analyzed to determine their actual financial value (both in terms of GAAP and in the context of rapidly changing opportunities and risks), and obligations and investments are reviewed in a broader context to determine any risk investors or funders might have. Risk reduction is the ultimate goal of the Trust Certification, with the belief that when risk has been significantly reduced or eliminated, the organization is free to pursue its vision and be successful.
Policies, systems and business practices become the core of the Trust Certification analysis. The organization's leadership is analyzed and, if deemed effective, is trusted to produce financial and other information that can be relied upon for decision-making. The Certification specifically identifies which of these aspects might pose a risk to the organization's continued existence and success, as well as the loss of its resources due to ineffective decisions.
HOW and WHO?
The Trust Certification is a mutual agreement between the organization and the Certification team. Each approves the agreement, and it is important to note that the Certification team will have the right and incentive to reject a proposal from an organization or its investors if initial conversations indicate that the organization is not ready for the process. The Certification team will also reject the proposal if there are questions regarding the integrity of management.
The Trust Certification process is a year-round process. Leaders of the organization, employee team members, customers, suppliers, and community and industry leaders all contribute information and opinion. The Certification relies heavily on the commitment of the organization's leadership to transparency.
A comprehensive organizational profile is created by the Certification team. Critical processes and policies are identified, and the environment in which the organization operates is analyzed to identify unforseen opportunities and possible negative developments for which the organization must prepare. The organizational profile defines the unique position the organization holds in the community and the industry in which it operates. It also provides a basis for resource development and product or service enhancement.
An annual retreat is facilitated by the Certfication team and participants are tasked with reviewing past performance and current conditions. Before the retreat, Certification team members are on-site at the organization observing daily operations, regularly scheduled meetings and presentations and representations made to customers that occur during the normal course of business The Certification team also reviews not only production and financial information, but reviews news items and other publicly available information about the organization to compare to internal communications and decision-making.
The Trust Certification report incorporates the traditional financial audit, including Opinion and Notes, but goes far beyond the audit report to include discussions of the aforementioned aspects such as management effectiveness, key policies and procedures, and risks and opportunities present in the organization's operating environment.
WHEN and WHERE?
The Trust Certification can begin at any time, and the team brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about organizational development to the process. This enables the Certification team to adapt the process depending on key information revealed and changes that occur while the process in underway. The Certification process therefore is never exactly the same from year to year, or across different organizations, but its key elements are always present.
Trust! Investors, funders and the community are confident in the organization. The organization itself is able to use its Certification to seek new resources and inspire confidence by its customers and employees in its ability to fulfill its promises and achieve its mission.