Which policies does our organisation need?

Borthwick Chris Jul2019lg

In this help sheet series, Our Community’s resident agony uncle, Chris Borthwick, offers answers to frequently asked questions about issues not-for-profits are facing.

Dear Agony Uncle,

I have been asked to set up some policies for our community-based sporting organisation and I have two questions.

First, do we need separate board policies and staff policies? In your policy bank, you have a board conflict of interest but no standard conflict of interest policy.

Second, is there a standard top 10 list of policies that most organisations have?

Agony Uncle's answer

Let’s look at the first question first. You should have conflict of interest policies for volunteers, including boards, because that's the only lever you have over them. Your staff are in a different position; your relationships there are governed by industrial relations law and by the contracts you have with them. If you want them to avoid conflicts of interest, then put it in the staff manual.

On your second questions: 10 would be a very spare list indeed.

The real question is, surely, “What policies do you need?” You know best what your organisation's problems are, and whether a policy would help. Whether other groups have the same needs as you is very much a second-order question.

Policies that you just download and stick in a folder and shove in a drawer are, of course, pretty useless. The idea is that all your people – staff and volunteers – know what's in them and try to follow them. That is, they require you to invest time and effort into them. Choosing which policies you want to invest in is your first job.

Look over our list, and ask yourself which would help you. Then adapt them to your circumstances (it’s not really a good idea to just download them without reading them).

And then go through the recommended processes of consultation and debate to get general buy-in.

And then Bob's your uncle.

Best wishes,
Agony Uncle.

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