By Cheryl Olson, CPA, CGMA
Now that we’re in March, many of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions. Some of us didn’t make resolutions to begin with based on past history. That said, It’s not too late to make a 2017 commitment to create, review, or update your organization’s key governance and financial policies.
To be most effective, policies need to be kept current so they reflect your organization’s internal culture and external environment. While this can be an overwhelming task, following these five tips will help you to get your policies in healthy shape.
Policy Index – Create a policy index that lists all of the organization’s policies in one place, assigning them a number. Include the date the board originally approved the policy, as well as subsequent dates they were reviewed and/or updated.
The index can help guide your work plan and help you to update the policies that haven’t been looked at within three years. It can also help you finalize policies the board never approved. An administrative piece of this process includes updating each policy with common fonts and formatting, using the new index number, as well as the dates approved and updated.
Periodic Review – Once you’ve determined which policies need to be updated, it will be important to plan periodic reviews of each policy for the future. For instance, some organizations review their investment policy annually, while some review specific policies every three years.
Scheduling out the policy review will ensure you’re not preserving outdated policies that aren’t compliant with organization standards, or are being ignored by staff. It is a good practice to stagger the review, so you are looking at only one-third of the policies each year, over multiple meetings.
Agendas – Add policy approval to the board agenda for the following year and tackle a few policies at a time. Be sure to send the drafts out in advance, or post them to the board portal, so members have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.
Remember that board approvals should be documented in the minutes. The related committees would also have a policy review on their agendas for the next year. Each organization is structured differently, so how staff are assigned, or involved, in preparing, reviewing, or championing the policies through the process will differ.
Document Management – Ideally, final versions of all approved policies will be electronically saved in a central location that is accessible to all staff. To ensure all staff members are referencing the same version of the file, management should delete all draft versions throughout the organization.
Managing the policies is important for record retention and overall oversight. Finding the best location to store the policies, or the right software to manage the policies, can be a challenge.
Training – Generally, staff want to comply with all organizational policies. To ensure that they are able to do so, your organization will need to provide staff with training around the new policies.
Training is best done on a continual basis, rather than just once. To provide effective training, consider offering a mini policy training at each staff meeting, offer brown bag lunch learning opportunities, or ask your audit team or a consultant to educate staff members.
While working with clients over the last year, there were several common policies that either weren’t in place, or hadn’t been recently reviewed. Those policies were the Document Retention and Destruction Policy, Travel Policy, Operating Reserve Policy and Capitalization Policy. Typically, organizations’ biggest policy efforts were related to policy work for compliance with regulatory changes on minimum wage, Uniform Guidance, and cannabis.
If an organization believes that all of their policies are in great shape, it might be time to revisit the organizational plans for risk management, management succession, and overall compliance.
Having current governance and financial policies that your staff understands and can find when needed, can provide some comfort for management and reduce risk.
© Clark Nuber PS 2017. All Rights Reserved.