Working with your nonprofit to make our world a better place
I am an Oregon nonprofit lawyer and historian that has enjoyed serving nonprofit organizations since 1978. I provide a wide range of legal services as well as trainings and workshops on a variety of topics.
I invite you to explore the website to learn more about services I provide, get updates on current news impacting nonprofits in Oregon and access free form and policy templates.
Here’s a headline you may have seen as a workshop topic and, by way of confession, I’ve presented some of those workshops myself. I’ve come to the conclusion that, while this is a fetching title, it is misleading. There are some policies every organization needs but this does not mean that every board needs them. And unfortunately, many of the policies at these workshops are policies various “commentators” on the nonprofit community decided that nonprofits should have, often based on the policies developed for the corporate world in response to corporate scandals or on the IRS Form 990 (which most nonprofits in Oregon do not file). While none of these policies are “bad” policies, they are not necessarily the most important of the policies nonprofits need. If you are going to spend your precious board time developing policies, start with the most important policies.
If I were to name the three most important policies every nonprofit needs, I would name these:
Boards of nonprofits have come under much more intense scrutiny in the last 15 years. There is a great deal of confusion about what boards are supposed to do. If the board gets involved in corporate operations, it will often hear cries that it is micromanaging the organization. If the board allows its executive director to run the organization and something significant goes wrong, the finger gets pointed at the board. What’s a board to do?
After 35 years of working with nonprofit boards, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are lots of ideas about board responsibilities and relatively little clarity about what the law actually requires. I’ve listened to many attorneys (including me), consultants and government regulators talk about the board’s duties to act reasonably, to be loyal to the corporation and to follow the corporate mission. The problem is that these answers tend to beg the question. How do we know what’s reasonable in a particular situation?
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