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What's the difference between policies and procedures?

There are two kinds of not-for-profit organisations: unincorporated associations, which are just a group of people sitting around a table, and legally recognised bodies like incorporated associations, companies, and cooperatives.

Legally recognised bodies (whatever their name) have to observe the applicable legislation under which they're established, which sets down some things they must do and some things they mustn't.

Legal entities of this nature must by law have an approved constitution (though it may be called something else) - a document which sets down the fundamental rules they operate by.

They should also have a set of by-laws filling in the detail of how these fundamental rules operate in particular circumstances.

As well as all these rules, not-for-profit organisations should also have a set of policy documents, approved by the Board, that guide members and staff in their decision-making and day-to-day conduct.

And at the next level lower down you will want administrative manuals setting out the procedures to be followed in particular circumstances.

Unincorporated associations can organise themselves as they wish and don't have to do anything; however, any unincorporated association that wants to operate efficiently and without too many unnecessary arguments would be much better off with a constitution, by-laws, policies, and a procedures manual.

The Policy Bank helps you to fill the policies and procedures functions - each of our downloadable policies contains an accompanying set of procedures.

While the policies should be adopted by the Board, we recommend that you free the Board of unnecessary operative responsibility by giving responsibility for writing and enforcing the procedures to the CEO.

Of course, any procedures must adhere with the broad principles laid out in the Board-approved policy document.

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