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Are policies and procedures really that necessary?

I have a confession to make. I really love systems. And procedures. Throw in some good protocol to get me really excited. Because these things are important not just to me, but to the nonprofit organizations I work with, I spend a lot of time creating manuals and policies for clients to support their mission and efficacy.

For nonprofits, particularly those that receive public funding, it is not just desirable, but often a requirement, that certain policies and procedures are fully operationalized and documented for staff, consumers and other stakeholders. However, other than mandates by law, government regulations and funders, why is it so important that organizations have clear, up-to-date policies and procedures? Check out a few of the reasons I’ve compiled through my experience as a program director and as a consultant in the field:

  • Having well-articulated, easy to access and current policies and procedures allow employees to feel empowered. When employees have the tools and resources they need to do their job, they will feel more confident and perform better. This is especially true when it comes to enforcing rules or providing care in settings such as residential facilities or other social service programs.

  • Similar to the above point, having documented protocol allows for effective training and orientation for both new and existing staff. It is important to have written points of reference and guides for instruction so that misinformation isn’t passed down unknowingly.

  • Policies and procedures also allow managers to feel empowered in their work. When expectations are clear, it is easier to hold employees accountable.

  • Documented protocol doesn’t just set expectations for employees, it can also provide guidance to participants of a particular program about what to expect and what is expected of them.

  • Ideally, policies and procedures themselves should exist within a larger system consisting of naming conventions, regular updates and organized electronically in whatever system the nonprofit uses. This allows for information to be archived and can contribute to the historical and institutional memory of an organization.

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