Every nonprofit needs to adopt policies and procedures to ensure that its managers, employees, and volunteers have a clear plan for handling important parts of the organization’s operations. A nonprofit attorney can help a board examine which policies are most important for a specific organization’s work. Adopting good policies protects not only the nonprofit itself from inconsistencies and mistakes, it also protects its management from having to make uncomfortable or difficult decisions on the spot. Chances are good that every organization will need policies covering these topics:
- Fundraising policy. The methods an organization will use to raise money and how it manages donor relationships should be spelled out by management. In particular, a policy describing how the organization will handle offers of large or complicated gifts (like real estate or stock) should be adopted before such things become issues.
- Conflict of interest policy. Avoiding problems of self-dealing and other ethical dilemmas should be a central concern of a nonprofit’s board. Having a clear procedure for identifying and addressing conflicts of interest ensures that when they arise they can be handled in a way that is fair and predictable. It also helps to ensure that conflicts problems do not violate the organization’s charter documents, state law, and tax rules.
- Social media policy. In the Internet age an organization’s branding efforts almost always must include some form of social media use. Determining how the organization will present itself online should not be left to the whims of one or two individuals, but should be decided by the board as a whole. A social media policy sets out important things like who has access to the nonprofit’s accounts, how to address negative interactions with the public, and when problems should be brought to the attention of management.
- Document and records retention policies. Central to any strategy for managing risk is a clear set of rules governing how long an organization will keep its records, and how it will go about destroying them when the time comes. A document retention policy is an important backstop in the event of regulatory review, tax audit, or litigation.
- Volunteer guidelines. An organization that plans to rely on volunteer workers should have clear rules about what sort of information volunteers have access to, how they are managed, and under what circumstances a volunteer may be asked to leave (for example, for inappropriate behavior).
The Church Law Center of California helps clients craft policies
The Church Law Center of California assists religious and secular nonprofits with all aspects of governance. We can help your organization craft policies to manage risk and simplify future decision-making. Call us at (949) 892-1221 or reach out to us through our contact page.