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Policies & Procedures: How Often Do Nonprofits Need to Update?

By Heather Brown
September 30, 2016

Nonprofits face unique challenges on a daily basis. Your mission and purpose are to make the community you reside in a better place. Nonprofit directors hold a significant responsibility in making sure your organization’s daily tasks are managed efficiently and properly. Along with the responsibility, you face a great number of risks. Risks that when under managed or ignored lead to lawsuits, trials, and courtrooms.

Some of these lawsuits can be prevented if directors take the time to review and update policies, procedures, and handbooks. Nonprofits implement policies, procedures, and handbooks to promote safety, honesty and provide volunteer expectations. Do you review these documents on a consistent basis? Or do you utilize a “set it and forget it” approach to policies and procedures? If you do, it is time to make some changes in your nonprofit.

 

Why?

There are 3 important reasons you need to update policies and procedures on a regular basis.

  1. Time brings change. You create policies and procedures based on your existing operations and goals. Over time those services and goals change. Your organization grows in size, your mission evolves to encompass more, and the types of projects your volunteers help with change. It is important to “re-look” at the procedures to identify operational changes, efficiency updates, and missing items.
  2. The solution already exists.  Most nonprofit policies and procedures provide solutions to possible problems or occurrences that need handled. How to address volunteers who are always late? No shows? Disrespectful behavior? Similar to employee handbooks- they provide you a path to address issues and be consistent with all volunteers. Laws change over time – make sure you update regularly to remain in compliance.
  3. Defense is only as strong as your documentation. Document, document, document! In the rare occurrences when lawsuits do happen, documentation is the key to your defense. Having policies, procedures, and handbooks in place for all volunteers gives you power in the courtroom. It is just as important to show you actively review and make changes when necessary to keep up with laws and operational changes.

When to update

It is important to look at your nonprofit and the types of services you offer the community. Do you offer professional services? Financial services? These types of nonprofits benefit from reviewing policies and procedures twice a year.

Other nonprofits benefit from reviewing at least once per year.

How?

Keeping policies and procedures up to date is a vital task and one you need to put on instant replay. As a director, your schedule is probably overwhelming already. Here is some good news: This is a task you can delegate!

  1. Identify project managers. Choose 2-3 strong volunteers to manage the project and conduct research.
  2. Review changes. Have the volunteers identify any changes made since your last review. Does a policy or procedure exist addressing these changes or new services? Are they any new laws or legalities that need to be addressed?
  3. What’s working vs. what’s not? Review existing policies and procedures to identify what works and what needs work. Make recommendations to comply with regulations, improve overall efficiency, and decrease risk.
  4. Educate. Hold an annual volunteer training and education session to review updates, changes, and address volunteer concerns.

Policies and procedures are vital to the inner workings of your nonprofit. Review and update them regularly to maintain a positive nonprofit culture. Your volunteers will appreciate the consistent efforts to provide a quality and safe volunteer work environment.

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