New Board Members Ryan & Stephen Talk Accountability Standards®

Board of Directors Blog Series - Part IV

This is part four of our Board of Directors blog series. Thank you for tuning in! 


Our co-created Accountability Standards® serve as a framework for building celebrated and productive relationships between donors, nonprofits, and the general public. With the Standards at the heart of our mission, our board and staff are working together to build donor and nonprofit relationships for strong, vibrant and just communities. As we continue with our Board of Directors blog series, we asked new board members Ryan Stopera and Stephen Thompson to weigh in on their favorite Accountability Standards®, but before we jump in, let’s learn about our new board members.

Ryan Stopera

Ryan is a social worker, community organizer, photographer, filmmaker, videographer, and educator (Phew!). He has worked in direct social services and grassroots community organizing for over 10 years. Ryan currently provides development and communications support to PRG, Inc., a Meets Standards® organization that provides affordable housing and housing services. He also recently launched Free Truth, a media company that uses art and education as a tool for liberation. Ryan is driven by building a more just and equitable world by supporting individuals, organizations, and communities in their mission-driven work.

Stephen Thompson

Stephen is an investment officer with Advantus Capital Management, Inc., a company in the Securian Financial Group (SFG). Over a 33-year career with SFG, he has worked in consulting, technology, and investment positions, and has served in several volunteer positions with the YMCA Voyager parent-child program and with OTUG – a tech special interest group at St. Thomas University.

How did you first come in contact with Charities Review Council?

Ryan: I heard about Charities Review Council after meeting Kris, the Council’s Executive Director, at a get together with friends. After hearing about my shared passion for nonprofit work and philanthropy, she asked if I would join the board and I happily agreed!

Stephen: A mutual friend, Susan, suggested my investment background would make me a valuable addition to the Charities Review Council Board of Directors, and introduced me to Kris. Susan is very active in the nonprofit sector and has a keen eye for recognizing where a person’s skill may add value to an organization (Thanks, Susan!).

What unique talent, skill, experience and/or expertise do you bring to the Charities Review Council’s Board of Directors?

Ryan: My career path has been varied, making me a “jack of all trades.” I started my career in direct social service, giving me insight into the difficult work of nonprofits on the front lines. I’ve also worked in philanthropy, where I developed a deeper understanding of fundraising and how to effectively communicate the need for support. More recently, I’ve been doing a lot of communications work, including in my own company, Free Truth, where my business partner and I specialize in consulting, media, and education. I bring all of these varied skills, experiences, and perspectives with me when I work with Charities Review Council.

Stephen: When I first learned about the Council’s use of the Accountability Standards® to help strengthen nonprofits, it reminded me of the ways I set standards to improve procedures during my investment career. I look forward to using that experience to help build donor-nonprofit relationships on a large scale.

What is your favorite Accountability Standard® and why?

Ryan: I have a favorite section of the Accountability Standards®- The Fundraising section, which includes 4 (of 25) Accountability Standards® all focused on strong, successful, and transparent donor-nonprofit relationships. Without successful fundraising efforts, nonprofits can’t do their meaningful work. We need resources and ethical fundraising campaigns to create the change we are all fighting for.

Stephen: You might think the Financial Activity Standards would be most comfortable, given my investment career. However, there’s one standard that when done right, supports and empowers all of the other Standards. That is the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Accountability Standard®, which encourages nonprofit board of directors and staff to have intentional conversations about power, process, and people.

What’s one thing you wish people knew about Charities Review Council?

Ryan: While the Accountability Standards® and nonprofit review process are important, it’s just a piece of our work. The Council is a partner to donors, nonprofits, and community members, making positive changes every day.

Stephen: When you enter a home, you notice the unique qualities the owner, and before them, the construction crew, has added. However, most people fail to recall the architect who provided an organizing structure upon which the unique improvements rest. Charities Review Council is the behind-the-scenes architect consulting with the nonprofits to help them lay a lasting, solid foundation on which the non-profit creates a home in their community.

Join us in welcoming Ryan and Stephen to Charities Review Council’s Board of Directors. Send them a note of welcome to info@smartgivers.org.

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Our mission is building donor and nonprofit relationships for strong, vibrant and just communities. We envision healthy communities for all, benefiting from effective and trustworthy nonprofits that are supported by a well-informed public’s generosity.

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