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TOOL 17 Review – Board Policies Manual (BPM)

By John Pearson

Policy: The Board’s Chief Occupation—Not an Occasional Board Chore

Governance Guru John Carver preaches, “Governing by policy means governing out of policy in the sense that no board activity takes place without reference to policies. Most resolutions in board meetings will be motions to amend the policy structure in some way. Consequently, policy development is not an occasional board chore but its chief occupation.”

So do you need a flashlight and emergency provisions to search for all of your board-approved policies over the last five decades? Good news—there’s an easier way!

TOOL #17: BOARD POLICIES MANUAL (BPM)

Use this tool to create a Board Policies Manual (BPM)—and finally, you’ll have all your policies in one document and always updated.

Tool #17 in the new resource, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance, is one of three tools in Part 5, “Policies and Board Responsibilities,” in this jam-packed 272-page resource. This tool features a 15-page template that will help you include all board-level policies in one simple and clarifying document.

In their very practical and helpful book/tutorial, Good Governance for Nonprofits: Developing Principles and Policies for an Effective Board, Bob Andringa and Fred Laughlin deliver an “add-water-and-stir” template for creating your customized Board Policies Manual (BPM). This living, dynamic document is designed for frequent reference at every board meeting and can be edited for policy adjustments when growth (or decline) or other factors mandate policy changes.

In “Part 1: Introduction and Administration,” the authors list six reasons your board should adopt a BPM:

  1. Efficiency of having all ongoing board policies in one place

  2. Ability to quickly orient and educate new board members and key staff about current policies

  3. Elimination of redundant, or conflicting, policies over time

  4. Ease of reviewing current policy while simultaneously considering new issues

  5. Opportunity to guide the Chief Executive, senior staff, and new board members through clear, pro-active policies

  6. A modeled approach to governance that other organizations might utilize

When your Governance Committee takes on this project, encourage them to use the companion book, Good Governance for Nonprofits, with helpful color commentary on every section and sub-section of the BMP template. This one tool—when properly implemented—will save your board members precious time over the next several years—and help streamline your board meetings. Honest!

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: At our recent board meetings, did discussion on some agenda topics go on and on and on? Was the discussion tied to an outdated policy or the lack of a policy? Is it time to gather all of our policies into a BPM?

MORE RESOURCES: Bob Andringa writes, “For every hour spent on creating and maintaining a Board Policies Manual, at least three hours of board and committee meetings will be saved before too long. It’s a ‘living document,’ always reflecting the latest wisdom of the board.” Read his guest blog, “Do Unwritten Board Policies Really Exist?” from Lesson 4 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson.

 

This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

 


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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