Continuing our exploration of nonprofit policies, this week we share information about the most-important Personnel Policy.

A good personnel policy protects your nonprofit organization in many ways. It ensures compliance with employment laws and regulations. It promotes fair, consistent treatment of staff, sets forth clear expectations and provides legal protection.

Everyone involved with your organization should be knowledgeable about your personnel policy, especially paid staff. Board members need to be aware of the policy and their role in performance evaluation, hearing grievances and supervising the director. If your organization uses volunteers, you might have a volunteer section in your personnel policy. Depending upon the number of and tasks performed, you might need a policy specific to volunteers. Clients and constituents may need to be aware of employee conduct and standards found in personnel policies.

Your personnel policy should have some standard topics—paid time off for employees, how and when it can be used, how much can be carried forward, etc.; parental leave and long-term disability; hiring processes, probationary periods, termination processes and the grievance procedure; nondiscrimination information; and working hours and locations. Other content should be specific to your organization and the way it operates.

If you start with a sample boilerplate policy, take time to tailor it to your specific situation. For example, if your organization works with youth your policy will include things such as a criminal background check that other organizations may not need. If your work is in the health care industry, there will be specific employee training and requirements around confidentiality. A nonprofit working with animals may have specific safety procedures for employees.

Here are a few more tips about your nonprofit personnel policy:

·         When circumstances require a revision or addition to the policy, make sure you codify the change, provide an updated copy to employees and ask for acknowledgement.

·         Include a disclaimer that the policy is not an employment contract, nor does it alter an employee’s at-will employment.

·         Your personnel policy should be written in easy-to-understand language.

·         Always have employees sign a document indicating they have received and understood the policy.

·         Don’t make a discipline process so rigid that your organization is locked into a step-by-step process that may not allow for dealing with a first-time offense of a very serious nature.

·         Your managers and supervisors should be intimately familiar with your personnel policy. This helps assure equitable enforcement of the policy.

Here are additional resources: