Three guides can help nonprofit organizations develop personnel policies

NONPROFITS INC.

March 13, 1995|By LESTER A. PICKER

Three resources for nonprofit organizations recently crossed my desk and are worthy of note.

The first, "Nonprofit Personnel Policies Manual" by Aspen Publishers, is a comprehensive guide for charitable groups wanting to develop their own personnel manual, but not having the wherewithal to know how to start.

The manual fills a real need, especially among small- and mid-sized nonprofits that cannot afford the time or money to develop their own manual with its attendant legal costs. Here, in loose-leaf format, are outlined all the major personnel areas, with sample policies and the rationale for including them.

A benefit to users is that all policies have been reviewed by a panel of legal experts, providing nonprofit directors and boards with an extra measure of assurance. However, as the publishers correctly point out in the forward, policies that "you adapt for your nonprofit's needs should be reviewed by an attorney." That is wise counsel, since personnel laws vary from state to state. Even so, using this manual as a guide should save charities many times its cost in legal fees.

The manual is divided into such sections as "Organizational Structure and Expectations," "Nondiscrimination," "Employment Conditions and Provisions," "Benefits Administration," "Performance and Discipline," and an appendix. Within each are suggested personnel policies. Next to each policy is a page titled "Rationale," which explains the reasoning behind the suggested policy, along with some helpful implementation tips.

While such a manual could lend itself to minutia, the authors are to be credited with keeping a forest-eye view of developing a personnel manual. I especially appreciated the policies related to conflicts of interest and a code of ethics.

"Nonprofit Personnel Policies Manual" costs $109, with annual supplements available to keep it current. A computerized disk is available as an option for an additional $39.00. In today's age, I hardly consider a diskette an option. Using the diskette, a nonprofit could get a personalized manual in a matter of hours. The manual and diskette are available from Aspen Publishers, (800) 638-8437.

The second set of resources admittedly came to me from a strange source -- the Masons -- or, more correctly, the Masonic Renewal Committee of North America. I am not a Mason, but a colleague of mine, Baltimorean Dudley Davis, is. His company, Davis Consulting Group, is charged with leading the renewal effort. And, like everything Davis does, he has created two workbooks that are excellent and applicable to many nonprofit organizations.

The first workbook is called "101+ Ways to Improve Interest & Attendance in Your Masonic Lodge." Forget the last three words of the title. This inexpensive manual should be helpful to just about every nonprofit that has a membership or gets its work done through committees that should be performing better.

Its 62 pages are clearly written, well laid out, and full of forms and work sheets to help the organizing effort. The 101 tips are divided into 10 sections, which include using time more efficiently, planning, communicating, connecting with the membership, involving a broader membership base in activities, and creating "fellowship." Naturally, some of the information is specifically geared to Masons, but surprisingly little. With modest effort, most nonprofits could adapt this little gem of a workbook to their unique situations.

An accompanying workbook, "A Masonic Leader's Planning Guide" outlines seven steps a nonprofit can take to develop an operational plan and a budget. It is a solid, practical guide, full of tips, suggestions and work sheets to make planning successful.

While the Planning Guide may not quite be as immediately useful to non-Mason nonprofits as the comparable "Strategic Planning Workbook" put out by the Amherst Wilder Foundation ($27.00, available by calling (612) 642-4025), and reviewed in this column last year, it does contain a great deal of wisdom gleaned from the experience of Davis and Masonic leaders. That experience can be adapted to a wide range of nonprofit use.

My one objection to the "Planning Guide" is that the forms are packaged separately from the bound workbook. Although the forms are 3-hole punched, the workbook is not, making a somewhat cumbersome package. Both books are available from Davis Consulting Group, (410) 377-0588. The cost of "101+ Ways" is $14.00, while the "Planning Guide" is $15.00. Both prices include shipping.

Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at the Brokerage, 34 Market Place, Suite 331, Baltimore 21202; (410) 783-5100

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