Nonprofits are a nationwide pillar of good deeds. Hundreds of thousands of people recognize the efforts of major nonprofits to make a lasting, positive impact on the world. Organizations such as the Red Cross draw international charitable donations for their efforts, while local nonprofits such as a food pantry or humane society make substantial impacts on our communities. What are nonprofit goals, policies and procedures?
Though we all admire and appreciate the efforts of our favorite nonprofits, many of us are deeply unfamiliar with the work involved in making non-profits successful. Even the best-intentioned nonprofit organizations take a small army of dedicated employees and business partners with nonprofits to make everything run smoothly. Starting a new nonprofit is no small thing.
Because of this, it is important for anyone considering the nonprofit sector to familiarize themselves with what goes into running one. Defining nonprofit policies and procedures as well as setting realistic goals are critical factors in laying a foundation for success. Without this administrative effort, many organizations will flounder and eventually fail.
Starting a nonprofit organization is fundamentally different than starting your own small business. The primary goal of a small business is to outcompete the competition and carve out a niche from which to make a profit, whereas the goal of a nonprofit is to avoid overlapping organizations and fill a need within the community.
This means that the strategy for laying the groundwork and getting started is also going to be substantially different. Everything from the goals of the nonprofit to the worker roles (both volunteer and paid).
When looking to start a nonprofit organization, one of the best first steps you can take is to conduct a needs analysis. The needs analysis seeks to answer hard questions about whether or not your nonprofit is really necessary and whether or not you’ll have the impacts that you think you will.
Questions that will be important for a nonprofit to answer include things like:
You will need to seriously consider the alternatives to starting a nonprofit and assess if there are different means to accomplish your goals. The next step will be building a network of support. Who are the people and businesses that are likely to get behind your efforts as a nonprofit and how are you going to successfully engage with them?
Taking the steps to put the correct framework in place is one of the most important things you can do once your nonprofit starts coming together. This means creating policies that your organization will live by. Some of these policies will tie themselves to core values or government regulations, while others such as a PTO policy for your nonprofit will be completely in your hands.
Another example is a gift acceptance policy. As a nonprofit, it is hard to say no to money or other types of donations when they come your way. However, it will be imperative to make sure that you have a set policy in place for how you handle donations in a standardized manner.
Likewise, it will be important to make sure you’ve dug into state and federal regulations surrounding gifts to nonprofits to make sure there are no surprises later on. Other policies you’ll want to put into place early include things such as a policy on how to handle conflicts of interest within the nonprofit.
You’ll also want to set a policy for document retention to make sure you’re filing sensitive information away properly holding onto important documents for an appropriate amount of time. Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have fundraising and donor privacy policies in place.
Although the terms ‘policy’ and ‘procedure’ may be used somewhat interchangeably, there is a difference. Policies are guiding principles that set the direction of an organization, while procedures are a series of steps for accomplishing a specific task. You’re going to need both in place in many instances.
For instance, federal regulations require that any online videos comply with accessibility laws so that people with disabilities can access them. Your nonprofit may have a policy in place stating that you will follow this direction, but you’ll also likely need a procedure that spells out exactly what steps employees need to take before posting videos to meet the accessibility standards put in place.
Having both policies and procedures that explain how to implement the policies successfully is imperative to long-term success as a nonprofit organization. Research suggests that doing so increases compliance and improves quality standards.
Starting a new nonprofit organization is no easy task and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are numerous things to consider including designing appropriate policies and procedures for the organization. Doing so can help to ensure you are meeting the federal requirements to qualify as a nonprofit as well as ensure that you are prepared to handle many of the tasks associated with nonprofit work in a fair and standardized manner.