How to Create a Nonprofit Human Resources Policy

Delainey Lockett • Feb 19, 2021
Nonprofit human resource policy

As great as it is to steward and engage your donors, you need to take good care of your staff and volunteers too. After all, they are the boots on the ground, driving your mission forward and ensuring your donors’ contributions make the intended impact. 

A nonprofit human resources policy can add structure to your workplace and make it easier for nonprofit staff to perform their duties. While some nonprofits may find it challenging to set up an entire human resource department, a clearly defined policy and proper guidance from an HR consultant can go a long way to improving your staff’s working conditions. 

Your HR policy can play a significant role in ensuring your nonprofit’s sustainable growth. The more your staff feels valued and protected by their employer, the better their performance and productivity. More so, since most of the work done in the nonprofit sector involves building long-term donor relationships, it is essential to have a system in place that encourages your staff to remain committed to your organization’s mission.

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What is a Nonprofit Human Resources Policy?

A nonprofit human resources policy is the blueprint that guides the way you interact with your staff, meet their needs, and improve the work they do. It serves to protect both your organization and staff by outlining the scope and framework of your HR department. 

We’ve outlined key details for you to include in your nonprofit HR policy:

  1. Performance Management: Provide details on how employees and volunteers can expect their performance to be managed and assessed over time. Give employees clarity on when salary negotiations will take place (if regularly) and when or how often they will receive formal feedback on their performance. Outline how the process for handling an underperforming employee works, how they will be notified, and what step your nonprofit will take to improve performances. 
  2. Hiring: What is the basis of and policies for hiring in your organization? This may include information on equal-opportunity hiring and how internalized bias can be avoided in your organization. 
  3. Holidays: What holidays are given off by the organization (statutory holidays, winter holiday season)? Is staff expected to work on these days? This section should outline what type of holiday pay is required, which varies by province, state, or country. The days that qualify as Statutory Holidays will also vary. RISE shared a comprehensive guide here that provides more information about statutory holiday pay across Canadian provinces. In the United States, statutory holidays pay depends on the agreement between employer and employee. 
  4. Hours of Work: What are the expected working hours/presence in the workplace? Your hours of work policy should include regular office hours (if any), what flexibilities can be taken and how, and rules about working from home if applicable. 
  5. Overtime: If overtime is permitted, how will it be recorded and compensated? Each Canadian province has differing laws surrounding what qualifies as overtime and how it is paid; Payworks provides additional information on how overtime works across Canada. Nonprofit organizations in the United States can learn more about overtime compensation here
  6. Termination of Employment: What types of offenses will result in termination? What is your nonprofit’s workplace policy about harassment, bullying, or sharing of confidential information? It is essential to specify your staff’s boundaries to ensure the organization isn’t held liable for hostile workplace issues. Additionally, this policy provides a clear standard of behavior, and so employees are protected from discriminatory or hostile behavior in the workplace. This section of the policy will also cover how soon terminated employees can expect their final pay and any other grounds for termination. 
  7. Vacation: What is the overarching process for taking and using vacation time? Requirements for vacation pay will depend on the province. However, in this policy, you need to outline how vacation is calculated, accrued/paid out, and how much vacation is allocated per employee per year. It should also include when staff may request vacation, how much notice is needed, how that notice is delivered, and how long a request should take to be approved or denied. 
  8. Leaves of Absence: A leave of absence policy outlines what types of absences are permissible and in what timelines. For example, you may want to offer bereavement time to employees suffering a personal loss. Deciding how much time can be given ahead of time ensures each employee is treated fairly and consistently. Additionally, you should specify how much sick time will be given per year if doctors’ notes are required and any other concerns related to leaves of absence.

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Best Practices for Creating a Nonprofit Human Resources Policy

Your nonprofit HR policy should be readily available and easily accessible for your staff as soon as they join your organization. Your organization’s designated HR personnel should keep the policy updated, ensure it is followed, and remind your staff about the procedures outlined regularly or when the need arises. 

Keep the following in mind as you create your nonprofit HR policy:

  1. Give your policy a title, and be sure to include the document in your employee handbook. 
  2. Specify the date of creation or revision to ensure your organization reviews its guidelines regularly, and changes are communicated to staff members. 
  3. The purpose of the policy should be clearly stated. Also, include details about what your organization intends to achieve by having this policy. For example, your policy’s purpose could be to create a safe work environment and ensure fair and unbiased treatment of all employees.
  4. Define key concepts and terminologies used in the policy to ensure understanding across your organization and to whom the policy applies.
  5. Finally, a good HR policy should specify the roles and individuals responsible for creating, implementing, monitoring, and revising it. It is also advisable to review your HR Policy with your organization’s board to ensure compliance with Provincial and Federal employment legislation.

Armed with a solid nonprofit human resource policy, you can make conscious efforts to improve your staff’s productivity and wellbeing in the workplace. Your staff works hard to impact the world; they deserve quality assurance, guidance, and protection in the workplace — and HR policy is a great starting point for that.

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