Employment Practices

Staffing the Nonprofit Workplace: Steer Clear of Pitfalls and Take the High Road

“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.

Did you know that employment related claims comprise an estimated 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 nonprofit leaders to adopt thoughtful employment practices that will reduce the likelihood of employment-related claims and lawsuits. We also work to provide nonprofit teams with the support they need to meet or exceed regulatory requirements and federal and state employment laws.

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 team’s extensive experience working with nonprofit leadership teams, and our sensitivity to unique missions and workplace cultures in the nonprofit sector.

The Center team 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.

Typical employment-focused consulting engagements include include:

  • Review, updating or development of an employee handbook
  • Support and assistance for boards of directors engaged in performance evaluation and compensation reviews for CEOs
  • Assistance with the development of specific personnel policies
  • Review of recruitment/hiring procedures
  • Assistance with the development of job descriptions
  • Development or review of employee screening procedures
  • 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 Herman at (703) 777-3504 or Melanie@nonprofitrisk.org.


Members of our team are experienced in the design and delivery of workshops that are geared to nonprofit audiences and sensitive to the dynamics and challenges of the nonprofit workplace. Training is most effective in person, however, the Center team is often called on to develop online courses and material.

HR workshops presented by the Center often include easy-to-understand explanations of relevant 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:

  • Managing HR Risk: Taking the High Road
  • The Frankenstein Effect: How to Properly Classify Employees vs. Volunteers
  • Employment Risks in the Nonprofit Workplace: Hot Topics, Emerging Issues and Proven Strategies
  • 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
  • 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 Kay Nakamura at (703) 777-3504 or Kay@nonprofitrisk.org.


Peruse the following free Center articles on various employment topics: