How to Write Policies and Procedures for Non-Profits
A non-profit organization is a business that has been granted tax-exempt status because it furthers a social cause and provides a public benefit[i].
The policies and procedures of non-profit organizations guarantee that they act and answer in all situations in a way that is impartial and fair.
Policies and procedures influence many parts of the work such as governance, employee behavior or benefits, and whatever has to be documented in a clear and simple manner. They must be easy to use.
A policy gives a rough idea of what employees need to do such as hold an orientation session to new board members, or must avoid doing such as accepting a bribe. It summarizes the directions, limits, principles, and direction for decision making. A good policy is written in simple terms and a clear language, and most of the time has a clear procedure.
The procedures must indicate in a clear manner how instructions in the policy are performed.
There are situations where you can have a policy without a related procedure, and a procedure without a related policy.[i]
Board of Directors and Management
Non-profit organizations have three levels: the board of directors (BOD), the management, and the staff.
Volunteers sit on the board of directors of a non-profit organization. A volunteer is a person who takes part in an initiative or does a task without being paid. Management and staff are paid.
One or two members of the staff attend the board meetings to answer questions on the running of the organization. The staff members are usually the president / chief executive officer and the director of finance.
Subjects Tackled in Policies
- Mission of a non-profit organization.
- Strategic planning.
- Organizational structure (org charts).
- Roles and responsibilities of the board of directors.
- Financial responsibility.
- Regulatory compliance.
- Human resources for staff and volunteers.
- Code of Ethics.
- Human resources for staff and volunteers.
- Health and safety.
- Compliance with regulations.
- Public relations.
- Privacy, Confidentiality.
Sections of a Policy
These are the different sections in a policy document:
- Purpose of the policy
Subjects Tackled in Procedures
Written procedures might include details about any of the areas of the policies.
You cannot talk about board of directors of non-profit organizations without mentioning bylaws.
Bylaws are governing documents representing the non-profit and/or its board of directors. They outline the code of conduct and define the basic structure and powers of the board. They are legal documents and the format for writing them is standard.
Definition, Features, Levels
Official position on a certain matter to guide decisions and actions, or to indicate what should happen and why.
Written description to explain how things should be done.
Other words you can use
Rule, Standard, Guideline, Principle, Objective
Instructions, Steps, Protocol, Process, Standard operating
General Can be immaterial. Range from broad values to specific regulations.
Specific, tangible, precise, and factual. Written in a simple language and to the point.
Our goal is to provide the highest quality programs in our area of expertise. We give 10 vacation days after one year of employment.
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Board Policy Manual or Handbook
The contents of the handbook are subject to the needs and nature of the organization such as the preferred board model. Each Board member receives a handbook at his or her orientation session.
A Board Development Committee is usually responsible for the contents of the handbook and for updating it.
The main focus areas of the handbook are organization and management; human resources; fund raising; and laws and regulations.
Organization and Management
- Mission and vision statements of the organization.
- Key management roles and duties.
- Organizational chart (org chart) to help employees understand who is responsible for what and the chain of command.
- The chain of command is the official hierarchy of authority that orders who is in charge of whom and whose permission must be sought. For instance, an employee reports to a manager who reports to a senior manager who reports to the vice president who reports to the CEO.
- In a hierarchy, the degree of authority rises with each higher level. The final power is with the person in a position at the top of the hierarchy who holds the authority to make final decisions.
- Responsibilities of the board of directors.
- How volunteers are developed and how the staff is trained.
- Personnel policies including conduct, performance rubrics, benefits and rules regarding compensation.
Non-profit organizations are exempt from paying taxes. However, if they act improperly, they lose their tax-free status.
- Methods used for fundraising such as grants, donations, corporate sponsors or events.
- Financial management outlining how budgets define what goes to programs and what goes to operations.
Laws and Regulations
- Laws and regulations affecting non-profit operations.
Is a Policy or a Procedure Required?
Some questions you can ask to determine if you need a policy or a procedure are:
- What will it achieve?
- Is it critical from an organization perspective?
- Is it related to human resources?
- Is it related to legal requirement?
- Is it related to health and safety?
- Is it related to financial management?
- It is a matter of accountability?
- Does it involve change?
- Does it involve organizational culture?
Write whatever comes to your mind –thoughts and ideas– about a certain subject or issue without concerning yourself with pronunciation, formatting or criteria. Make sure you gather all the information you need before you start to write the policies and procedures.
- On a blank sheet of paper, draw a circle in the center of the sheet.
- Write the main idea or topic in the circle.
- Put new and related ideas on lines or branches that radiate out of the circle.
- Do it quickly without assessing, judging or editing.
- When you run out of new ideas, use lines, colors, and arrows to show connections between the ideas generated on your mind map.
- Start writing about each idea and sub-idea.
- Organize all useful and related ideas according to the policies and procedures template of the organization.
All organizations must have a policy and procedure template. It is a management tool that employees must know about.
The template expresses the organization’s guidelines and objectives that convey the proper standards of behavior and action for all employees.
Policy and procedure templates include best practices, the core descriptions for business processes, and the standards and methods on how employees should do their work.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.