Setting policy is an important responsibility of the board of directors of a nonprofit organization. Determining procedures is not. That’s why board members need to know the difference!
Policies are general statements that express principles or requirements of behavior for the organization. They don’t change often. What are some examples of basic policies nonprofits should have in place?
- Conflict of Interest
- Whistle Blower
- Document Retention and Destruction
- Gift Acceptance
- Financial Control
By contrast, procedures lay out the steps and processes by which the policies will be implemented. They do change, as often as needed, to make sure they are working right.
When a nonprofit has paid staff, generally it is the Board’s responsibility to establish polices and the staff’s responsibility to develop the procedures to implement the policies. In an all-volunteer nonprofit, the job of developing procedures probably should be delegated to a committee. In either case, the goal is for the board as a whole to work at the level of policy and strategic direction, and avoid “micromanaging” the organization.
Two good resources to learn more: