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Three VERY IMPORTANT Manuals for Nonprofit Organizations

Many times I’ve blogged about the importance of nonprofit operations. Ever so often accounting, human resources, and technology practices get pushed aside in a nonprofit organization because program work is prioritized as being more important. This is fine and dandy until a crisis occurs, like someone embezzles money from the organization or a disgruntled employee sues the organization. These types of things happen more often than not. That is why it is important to put the proper operations policies and procedures in place ahead of time to prevent these horrible things from happening.

Whether you run a new nonprofit or your nonprofit has been around for years, I recommend that EVERY nonprofit implement and actively use these three manuals in their organizations:

  1. Accounting manual
  2. Employment manual
  3. General operations manual

The accounting manual will keep an organization in compliance with nonprofit specific Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), as well as protect its financial assets, and ensure that proper internal controls are in place. The contents of a nonprofit accounting manual generally includes:

  • Division of Duties
  • Cash Receipts Procedures
  • Cash Disbursements Procedures
  • Reconciliations
  • Petty Cash Fund
  • Purchases
  • Fixed Asset Management
  • Payroll
  • Financial Reporting
  • Grant Compliance
  • Fiscal Policy Statements

Sample Nonprofit Accounting Manual
Steps for Creating an Accounting Manual

The employment manual will help protect an organization against employee lawsuits and grievances. This manual will also help nonprofit employees understand key employment policies as well as the benefits available to them and mandated by California employment law**. The contents of an employment management generally includes, but is not limited to:

  • Employment Policies
  • Leave from Work and Other Benefits
  • Vacation and Sick Leave
  • FMLA
  • Other state mandated policies
  • Conditions of Employment
  • Compensation and Other Administrative Matters
  • Grievance Policies
  • Verification of Receipt
  • At Will Employment Statement

**Always involve a personnel attorney in creating or revising your employment manual

Sample Employment Manual
Creating an Effective Employment Manual for Your Nonprofit
Personnel Policy Manuals

The operations manualwill document critical organizational information and general operating procedures. This manual will also improve operational efficiency. The contents of an operations manual generally includes, but is not limited to:

  • Security Culture/Procedure
  • File Saving Procedure
  • Back Up Procedure
  • Marketing and communications Procedures
  • New Hire Procedure
  • Emergency/Evacuation Procedure
  • Fundraising Filing Procedure
  • Human Resource/Personnel Filing Procedure
  • Events Procedures

Operations Manual Template
Operations Manual Example
Operations Best Practices

I provided links to templates and examples so you can easily revise and personalize these manuals to your own nonprofit organization. The important thing is to involve the staff and key board members in the entire process from start to implementation.

  • Kelli King-Jackson

    Thanks for sharing such an important reminder. Most of the small nonprofits I work with do not have these systems in place.

    In my work I have seen a great need for 'conflict of interest' and 'nepotism' language. A lot of start ups have family members as employees and/or board members. As the organization grows these types of practices can cause problems.

    I'll certainly direct colleagues and clients to this blog entry!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post. I am starting a non-profit organization (charter school) and this is one of the most useful free resources I have come across. Kudos! Excellent!

  • Emma Wakpi

    Happened upon this site as I was researching information about writting polocies for the ngo I’m working for. Found it very helpful. Thanks so much. :-)

  • Gil L. Gregorio

    Great source of organizational knowledge. Keep it up!

  • Tammy Tibbetts

    Found this extremely helpful for She’s the First — thank you!