Staffing the Nonprofit Workplace — Steering Clear of Pitfalls in the Process

"Employees are our most valuable asset," may sound like a cliché, but it's also a true statement. An equally true statement is that employees can be a nonprofit's most significant liability. Any employer faces potential liability from former or current employees in the normal course of business, but nonprofit employers face increased challenges due to the expectations of fair treatment and of a “social contract” inherent in the public benefit focus of a nonprofit's mission. Employment related claims comprise over 85% of all nonprofit insurance claims filed under Directors and Officers’ Liability policies. This statistic, in addition to the consistently high number of employment/discrimination lawsuits filed annually by American workers, creates a very real risk that any nonprofit with employees will face an employment practices lawsuit. At the Center we strive to educate nonprofits to implement employment practices that will reduce the risk that such a lawsuit will strike, and also to provide nonprofits with educational and other tools to ensure compliance with federal and state employment law requirements.

What distinguishes the Center’s consulting services from those typically available from a law firm or human resource consultant is a combination of the Center’s extensive experience working within the nonprofit sector, and a sensitivity to the benefit of educating our clients so that they can continually integrate risk management strategies into future decision-making about human resource policies and practices.

In addition to the technical assistance available via telephone or email from the Center’s staff at no cost, the Center is also available to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of a nonprofit’s employment practices or to assist with the development of specific policies and procedures on a consulting basis. Employment practices policy review and development is a frequent request. Typical consultations include:

  • Review of employee manuals and handbooks for paid staff and volunteers
  • Support and assistance for boards of directors engaged in performance evaluation and compensation reviews for CEOs/executive directors
  • Assistance with the development of specific personnel policies
  • Review of recruitment/hiring procedures
  • Assistance with the development of job descriptions
  • Development or review of background screening procedures to address child protection concerns
  • Review of discipline and termination procedures

For more information on the Center’s consulting services or to discuss your organization’s employment practices concerns or needs, contact Melanie at 202-785-3891 or via email.

Online Tools


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The Center’s staff is experienced in designing and delivering training that is specific to a nonprofit’s programs and activities and sensitive to the dynamics and challenges of the nonprofit workplace. Training is most effective in person, however, computer-based or video/DVD tools are often more cost-effective because they can be used at the convenience of the nonprofit, multiple times. The Center provides customized training modules for staff and volunteers, that can be custom designed in DVD or powerpoint format for you nonprofit to deliver on its own.

Examples of employment practices training include:

  • Coaching for supervisory staff on how to conduct performance counseling and document disciplinary discussions
  • Raising sensitivity to an organization’s anti-harassment policy and sensitivity training
  • Raising awareness about a nonprofit’s Whistle-blower protection policies and procedures
  • Workplace safety and health, and accident prevention

Workshop Design/Facilitation

The Center can provide experienced presenters to design, deliver or facilitate workshops, seminars and conference sessions on employment law topics relevant to the nonprofit environment. All workshops presented by the Center include easy-to-understand explanations of the federal and state-specific employment laws, with special focus on employment issues that regularly ensnare unwary nonprofit managers. Workshops presented recently by the Center have included the following topics:

  • Employment Risks in the Nonprofit Workplace: Hot Topics, Emerging Issues and Proven Strategies
  • Risks, Rewards and Reasons to Review Employment Practices
  • Managing Personnel: Defying the Odds and Avoiding Litigation
  • ABCs of Background Checks and other Screening Techniques
  • Managing HR Risk and Reward: Do's, Don'ts and Musts for Your Nonprofit
  • Checking the Backgrounds of Church Workers
  • Volunteer and Staff Screening: Taking a Strategic Approach to Protect the People You Serve
  • Effective and Legal Employment Practices
  • Counseling the Difficult Employee

To inquire about booking one of the Center's staff as a speaker at your upcoming conference or to discuss your training needs, contact Melanie Herman at (202) 785-3891 or via email.

Customized Services

The Center can provide your organization with customized presentations, publications, or videos (whether for websites or print media); publications such as newsletters for members; live or web-based staff trainings, seminars and workshops; and brochures and educational pamphlets on a variety of risk management topics specific to employment law risks. The Center uses examples and training tools that reflect the mission, values and critical issues facing nonprofits in order to teach sound risk management principles and techniques.

Click here for more information on presentations and customized trainings.

Click here for more information Webinars, the Center’s internet based training modules.

Please contact Melanie Herman at (202) 785-3891 or via email to discuss your specific needs.

Library — Resources


The Center’s bi-monthly newsletter that is emailed to your in-box, providing a quick lesson or highlighting a timely issue that your organization needs to know. Sign up for eNews here!


The Center offers the following online articles on employment practices topics in downloadable format at no cost:

Risk Management Essentials

View the Center’s 16-page newsletter that is published three times a year. Each issue covers a selection of issues, showcases the Center's training and workshops, and/or highlights new publications offering risk management advice from a nonprofit perspective. Download the current issue or order back issues here!