Audit and Assessment Checklist

A Step-by-Step Audit and Assessment Checklist for NIST 800-53A

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Kezia Farnham

What Is Compliance Monitoring?

Compliance monitoring refers to the quality assurance tests organizations do to check how well their business operations meet their regulatory and internal process obligations. This need to monitor compliance performance is often a regulatory requirement; regulators like the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority or the International Organization for Standardization require firms applying for approval to operate to detail their compliance monitoring plans, for instance. Ongoing, the robustness of organizations’ monitoring programs can form a central tenet of compliance with the rules that govern them. Typically, a dedicated compliance team will be responsible for tracking compliance and monitoring day-to-day activities, using relevant compliance tools, making everyday activities easier to control. This is achieved with an internal audit also providing additional checks and rigor, particularly in larger or more complex entities.


What Does Internal Monitoring of Compliance Ensure?

Internal monitoring of compliance ensures that your staff follows company policies and procedures. While auditing verifies that the necessary controls are in place, it’s through monitoring that you can determine whether or not staff are following those controls in their daily activities. This helps organizations guard against liability, data breaches, and costly regulatory fines like HIPAA penalties.

The compliance monitoring program’s extensiveness depends on the organization’s size. A smaller company might rely on a single compliance person. In contrast, larger organizations might have an entire compliance and audit team responsible for establishing the compliance audit strategy and continuous monitoring. In both cases, policy management technology can help ensure that policy administration is streamlined and verifiable for easy, accurate reporting. 


Elements of a Compliance Monitoring System

There are different ways to monitor compliance. When applied together, each review makes for a more cohesive compliance monitoring system that proactively identifies risks. Include each of the following in your organization’s compliance best practices.

Operational and Performance Reviews

Documenting your policies and procedures is one thing. But that doesn’t mean your employees follow these processes or are as effective as you think. Though performance reviews don’t fall directly under the compliance team’s oversight, an employee can and should be evaluated based on their level of compliance. 

Performance reviews should occur at set intervals and follow a prescribed measurement approach related to each employee’s duties. These reviews should also help evaluate communication or operational issues, HR procedures and anything else that might get in the way of compliance. 

Policy Reviews

The business landscape changes quickly. Regulations evolve, as do technologies and ways of working. That means an effective and compliant policy one year might be outdated the next. Effective compliance systems should review the organization’s policies and procedures at least once a year. 

Compliance teams can divide and conquer how they review policies and procedures by prioritizing the areas of most significant risk first, so long as all policies are reviewed within the year. Extensive organizational changes or new laws impacting the organization should also trigger a policy review. 

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Content Strategy Manager
Kezia Farnham
Kezia Farnham is the Content Strategy Manager at Diligent. She's a University of the Arts London graduate who has enjoyed over seven years working across journalism, public relations and digital marketing, with a special focus on SEO and CRO in the B2B SaaS sector.
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What Does it Mean to Be a 501(c)(3) Organization?

In the US, the designation of 501(c)(3) is used to identify not-for-profit organizations that have been granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While the IRS designates 29 types of nonprofit organizations that are exempt in some way from federal taxes, 501(c)(3) specifically denotes an organization that is either charitable, religious, scientific, educational or one of several other humanitarian purposes. Two of the key benefits of registering as a 501(c)(3): tax exemption and the ability to accept charitable contributions and donations that are tax deductible for the donor. Many nonprofit organizations apply for tax exempt status as a signal to their stakeholders that they take their mission seriously, and that they can be trusted to provide benefit to the communities they serve. Part of this stewardship approach falls to the nonprofit’s board of directors – whether the charity is a recent startup or an established 501(c)(3), it’s pivotal that the organization has a strong modern governance structure in place.


Challenges for 501(c)(3) Organizations

Not-for-profit organizations, particularly those just getting started, often face challenges to cultivate significant ongoing financial support. While it’s true that receiving the 501(c)(3) designation allows a charity to fundraise, that designation alone does not make donations magically appear. Fundraising, and ensuring adequate financial support, is a major role for many nonprofit boards of trustees. One particularly successful way board members can help with fundraising challenges is to leverage their networks and make introductions to potential donors for the 501(c)(3) organization. Additionally, many 501(c)(3) nonprofits find establishing and reinforcing best practices in governance to be a challenge.
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Nonprofit Governance for 501(c)(3) Organizations

As in the corporate sector, good governance is required to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. While there are some variations in the size, specific committee structure, and frequency of meetings of not-for-profit boards, all boards of trustees are charged with the same fiduciary duties as their for-profit counterparts, namely: The Duty of Care: making the best decisions in the interest of the organization in light of all available data The Duty of Loyalty: ensuring that directors put the interests of the nonprofit organization above their own self-interests (avoiding conflicts of interest) The Duty of Obedience: reinforcing that all trustees must abide by applicable laws and regulations, and ensuring the organization operates lawfully and ethically. Beyond their basic fiduciary obligation, nonprofit boards are also responsible to hire, compensate, evaluate, and support the chief executive – who, most commonly, is the board’s only direct-report employee. Trustees are also expected to play a role in overseeing the nonprofit’s strategy, ensuring that the organization is working in good faith to fulfill its mission, and using donors’ funds and other sources of charitable support appropriately. Additionally, nonprofit boards play an important role in setting the tone for organizational culture, protecting the reputation of the organization, fostering strong relationships with appropriate partners and supporters, and being responsive to the needs of the organization’s stakeholders. On the whole, it’s a challenging job – but one that can be very rewarding for trustees who are passionate about the nonprofit organization’s cause, and who are able to find ways to leverage their talents and networks in support of the mission.


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