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June 8, 2011
Everything’s Coming Up Weeds
By Melanie Lockwood Herman
After record rainfall in April and May, the front yards, gardens and farms look especially lush in the area of Virginia where I live. Everything is thriving… including the weeds. Extracting the bumper crop of weeds from my flower beds is requiring a bit more time than I had budgeted for the maintenance of my garden. While battling the weeds this past weekend I found myself reflecting on the “weeds” that crop up in nonprofit organizations. One example of an organizational “weed” is an out of date policy.
After a recent presentation in Texas an audience member approached me to discuss her nonprofit’s employment policies. She indicated that over time the nonprofit’s employment policies had grown unwieldy. We discussed the fact that many organizations begin with a simple personnel manual that grows in length and complexity with the addition of new policies. An attendance policy is added to address the habitual tardiness by employees in one department. A social media policy is adopted after an online posting by an employee causes embarrassment. The resulting “manual” is a collection of mismatched policies that are far from cohesive.
Allowing the unfettered growth of policies in an organization is a bit like allowing the weeds to overcome your rose garden. Over time it will be hard to see and enjoy the colorful, fragrant blooms. If weeding your nonprofit’s collection of policies is overdue, consider the following tips:
Taking time to “weed” organizational policies is an essential part of effective risk management. Out of date policies intended to reduce the likelihood of harm may increase your exposure to loss. Unwieldy policies impair agility and may limit opportunities to innovate and seize opportunities. Organizational circumstances, strategies and policy needs change over time. Periodic pruning is less costly and ultimately more effective than waiting until the garden is completely overgrown.
Melanie Lockwood Herman is Executive Director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. She welcomes your ideas about any risk management topic, feedback on this article and questions about the Center’s resources at Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or (202) 785-3891. The Center provides risk management tools and resources at www.nonprofitrisk.org and offers consulting assistance to organizations unwilling to leave their missions to chance. A limited number of hard copy versions of Melanie’s most recent books are available from our e-Store. If you’re interested in EXPOSED: A Legal Field Guide for Nonprofit Executives or Ready or Not…A Risk Management Guide for Nonprofit Executives, order today!
We Can Help
Whether you’re trying to understand your nonprofit’s appetite for risk-taking, sharpen your risk management skills, build on success or avoid preventable losses, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center for assistance. We can support you in a number of ways, from helping you draft or revise risk management policies to designing custom training programs (on-site, virtual/webinar, or online). We also offer in-depth risk assessments, Enterprise Risk Management engagements, and consulting help on topics ranging from developing or updating youth protection policies, to strengthening governance practices. Why make the journey alone when you can partner with a team of nonprofit specialists who live and breathe nonprofit sector risks? Contact Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org or call (202) 785-3891 to discuss your needs and learn how we can help.
The First Wednesdays program is a 12-part series of 60-minute live and recorded webinars covering a wide range of risk-inspired topics. The series continues on July 6, 2011 with a program on Managing Employee, Volunteer and Board Discontent. Learn more or register.
The Third Thursdays program is a four-part series of 90-minute live and recorded webinars on human resource risk. Join us on Thursday, September 15, 2011 for the first Fall program on Top 10 HR Risks Facing Nonprofit Organizations. Learn more or register.
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© 2011 Nonprofit Risk Management Center