Along with the rules and bylaws that govern their operations, not-for-profit organisations should also have a set of policy documents to help guide members, volunteers, the board and staff in their conduct and decision-making.
Policies establish in clear language what the organisation wants to achieve – and provide boundaries for how it wants to get there, helping to ensure consistency and accountability.
Some policies will be specific to the board (e.g. conflict of interest policy, attendance policy – falling under the heading of governance policies), others will have organisation-wide implications (e.g. ethics policy, diversity policy). The latter category includes operational policies, which will usually be overseen by management (if the organisation has staff).
Procedures are slightly different again. While policies focus on principles, procedures deal with the "how to" end of the equation.
Our Community recommends that policies be adopted at a board level, while procedures be developed and signed off by the organisation's head staff member (e.g. the CEO). The sample policies in our Policy Bank follow this format.
The number and type of policies and procedures (and their contents) will differ from organisation to organisation, but some of the more common ones include:
Mission and vision – detailing the purpose and directions of the organisation and what it hopes to achieve.
Ethics/conduct policy – designed to set expectations for and guide the behaviour of board members, staff members and volunteers, including disciplinary measures for non-compliance.
Conflict of interest policy – designed to provide guidelines for identifying and dealing with potential or real conflicts of interest.
Grievance policy – outlining procedures for dealing with internal and/or external complaints.
Board self-evaluation policy – detailing performance standards for the board and outlining measures for ensuring evaluation and improvement of performance.
Board-staff relationship policy – outlining the various responsibilities of board and staff members.
Volunteer policy – outlining how and under what circumstances volunteers can be recruited and their place within the organisation.
Financial management practices – detailing minimum standards and practices for management and reporting of finances.
Accountability policy – outlining standards for reporting of board information and to whom the board will be accountable.
While it can be quite a job to develop the full range of policies your organisation and board needs (a job made enormously easier by the Policy Bank), the real challenge lies in ensuring that they are used.
In writing or reviewing your organisation's policies, keep in mind the following points:
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