Policies, Policies, Policies – What You Need and Why!
(for the purposes of this blog, I am referring to fundraising policies only)
Policies: the word makes some people shudder and others applaud. They are rarely the most exciting part of any fundraiser’s job and often get bumped to the bottom of the “to-do” list, but I will tell you that they are the most foundational tools in our development toolbox. From a governance perspective, policies are necessary and your Board should be keenly aware of what policies exist in your organization and how to address any gaps.
As donors and supporters become more savvy, your development professionals (and volunteers, for that matter) need to ensure that your organization’s policies are up-to-date, CRA compliant, and accessible to all staff who field donor-related questions. Well-defined and well-articulated policies will help your staff:
- Answer unusual donor inquiries
- Instill confidence about the organization’s good governance with donors
- Provide solid reasoning to donors about gifting and CRA legislation
I can’t tell you how many times a policy has saved my bacon! The hospital foundation (Providence Healthcare Foundation) where I work has a catalogue of close to 100 policies that guide our everyday work and I’d say that at least once a month, a donor will ask me a question that requires a policy review/reference. Our policies span a range that includes everything from what types of gifts we accept and how we receipt those gifts (the bedrock of our policy catalogue) to our rules governing cash floats at our special events. Our policies hold every staff member accountable to the standards we uphold and leave very few “grey areas” open to interpretation by donors.
There are a few policies that every charity accepting donations needs to have, such as a Gift Acceptance Policy; a Receipting Policy; a Donor Relations Policy; and a Confidentiality Policy. As your organization’s fundraising becomes more complex, you may need to develop policies around Pledge Management; Planned Giving; Gift-in-Kind; and Endowment Funds…among many others! See? There’s just no end to the policy fun!
Most importantly, I suggest that you appoint a staff person to manage the policies, ensuring that they are updated with legislative changes and organizational changes. We update our policies as part of our annual Business Planning and Budget cycles. It’s become an ingrained part of our governance practice and many of the policies are brought to the Board for approval annually or bi-annually.
Lastly, any charities considering an application to the Imagine Canada Standards Program must be able to demonstrate a fulsome policy library.
If you have any questions about your organization’s policies requirements or gaps, please contact MAS.