Nonprofit board directors provide valuable services for their communities. It’s exciting to join a nonprofit board of directors and be part of the action. New nonprofit board directors quickly learn that accepting a seat on the board comes with huge and important responsibilities for governance.
The National Council of Nonprofits recommends that nonprofit boards review their policies on an annual basis. It’s important to conduct an annual review of your policies so that your nonprofit organization remains in legal compliance and avoids liability issues. The best way to approach your annual policy review is to rely on your best practices and break your policies down into the various aspects of your work.
It may be too much to expect to get through all of your policies in one board meeting, particularly if your nonprofit is large or long-standing. Don’t feel like you need to tackle it all at once. Consider moving parts of the review to your committees to expedite the process. Take as many meetings as you need to do a thorough review. You have all year to get it done.
The process of reviewing policies can be time-consuming, but in the end, it will protect your organization, the people involved with it, and your board of directors. The process doesn’t have to be daunting. A categorized policy review checklist will help to keep you on track.
Your Board of Directors
Begin your policy review process by reviewing your mission, vision, and values statements as these policies are the cornerstone of your organization. The following policy review checklist provides ideas on other areas for review.
- Board of Directors Handbook
- Recruiting board members
- Board orientation and onboarding
- Board training and development
- Board attendance
- Board term limits
- Board chair and officer descriptions
- Organizational chart
- Committee charters
- Review of bylaws
- Executive director review process
- Board of director self-evaluation process
- Updating the board calendar
Annual Planning Activities
This section should encompass your board calendar, board meetings, events, and activities.
- Review of strategic plan
- Diversity policy and planning
- Marketing planning
- Fundraising and development planning
- Board and committee planning including goals and timeframes
- Operational planning and staffing needs
The purpose of your nonprofit is to fill the needs of your community that aren’t being provided in other ways. Your program planning should be directly correlated to your strategic goals and this policy review checklist gives you that assurance.
- Data collection and analysis to assess outcomes
- Assessing program outcomes according to client needs
- Assessing data collection methods-surveys, feedback, focus groups, etc.
Recordkeeping is essential for your own benefit as well as ensuring that you’re prepared for auditing or other purposes. Be certain to review the following areas.
- Volunteer policies
- Human resource policies
- Financial recordkeeping policies
- Donor and fundraising policies
- Policies for mailing lists
- Policies for client participation in programming
- Descriptions of workflows for major operations and programs
- Inventory of computer equipment
- Computer backup policies-be sure to keep one copy offsite
- Disaster recovery plan
Your human resources policies cover staff and volunteers.
- Personnel policies
- Affirm that all staff members have a policy handbook
- Performance appraisal policy
- Professional development policy for staff and/or volunteers
- Review of job descriptions
- Review of benefit policies
Clear policies for your volunteers will keep them happy and willing to serve. Happy volunteers will spread the news of your work to others. Show them your appreciation annually with special recognition.
- Policies for recruiting and orienting volunteers
- Plan for managing volunteers
- Plan for volunteer retention
- Plan for volunteer recognition
Not only are financial policies important to protect your nonprofit organization from legal and liability issues—they play a major role in helping your organization be transparent. Transparency gives you credibility and enhances your reputation.
- Fiscal policies
- Review of annual fiscal year budget
- Financial controls and internal procedures
- Review of inventory of equipment and facilities
- Review of depreciation tables
- Cash flow analysis
- Monthly financial balance sheet and financial statements
- Review of annual audit policy
- Tax and other reporting schedules
- Review of payroll recording policies
- Review of accrual accounting procedures
Today, nonprofits have the benefit of many communication channels at their disposal. Review them annually to ensure that they’re updated and effective.
- Policies for producing annual reports
- Internet and website usage policies
- Review of policies for regular communication strategies for stakeholders
- Review of brochures and promotional videos
- Media relation policies
If you’re in need of new board directors, you might consider recruiting an insurance professional. Nonprofit organizations bear many risks and the proper insurance policies will protect the board and your organization.
- Risk management policies
- Review of Director and Officer’s liability policy
- Review of the worker’s compensation insurance policy
- Review of the disability insurance policy
- Review of liability policies including volunteers
- Review of need for a professional liability policy
- Review of need for dishonesty bonding
- Review of board and executive director succession planning
Lawyers also make good additions to nonprofit boards. If your board lacks legal expertise, consider consulting with a lawyer from the outside to ensure that your organization is following all necessary compliance and legal protocols.
- Review of the statement of incorporation and tax status documents
- Review of anti-discrimination policies
- Review of membership policies
- Review of personnel policies
- Review of record retention policy
Not all nonprofit organizations have the advantage of owning or leasing facilities. Those that do need to review their facility policies annually. Nonprofits that don’t have a brick and mortar office still need to review their policies for off-site document storage.
- Review of safety policies for facilities
- Review of accessibility of facilities for the disabled
- Review of emergency and fire procedures
- Review of signage for safety purposes
- Review of policies for off-site document storage.
Many nonprofit boards make the mistake of being so busy with managing the nonprofit that they procrastinate with reviewing their policies. When you use a policy review checklist, the process won’t feel so overwhelming and your board will feel confident and greatly satisfied once it’s completed.
Consider this to be a basic policy review checklist and use it to help plan for any new policies that you need to develop. It will benefit your nonprofit to take your policy review seriously and give it the time and attention it deserves.
BoardEffect software provides a central resource for board meeting, annual, and board development cycles. Your board members can access every item on this policy review checklist directly through the board portal at any time.