Building Capacity...

—> Through Policy Development

Developing Policies for Organization Governance and Operations

We operate from the premise that policies should serve the organization and not the other way around. This is not a rhetorical distinction; the policies which form an organization culture and guide and facilitate its programs are crafted from the soil of mission, stakeholders, and core values. Only in this way can have staying power, continued relevance, measurability, accountability, and compliance.

The Center focuses on policies in the four categories of ends, means constraints, governance, and executive linkage; and we use the Carver Policy Governance Model as a framework to develop policies in governance, management, and administration:

Board of Directors:
Decision-making process, member nomination and officer selection, terms of office, board composition, etc.

Constitution and Bylaws

Ethics and Legal:
Discrimination and oppression, sexual harassment, diversity, affirmative action, etc.

Budget creation, investments and asset management, funders, etc.

HR and Personnel:
Wage and salary, sick leave, vacation, grievance, hours and flex time, dress code, telecommuting, parental leave, termination, staff retention and turnover, etc.

Organization Assessment

The first order of business in policy development is to perform an organization assessment in order to ensure that policies are not solutions in search of problems but rather that they address real organizational needs. To that end, the Center conducts research of an organization's profile — including a survey of its board, staff, members, and stakeholders — in order to create or revise policies which are dynamic and which reflect an organization's core values. Absent this key step, policies cannot be crafted upon a standard against which they can be measured and evaluated.

Redefining Core Values

Often the exercise of policy research itself will unearth building blocks of an organization which have become obsolete and which no longer reflect the organization as it has come to evolve. If these building blocks — including core values — are not relevant or accurate or if they suffer from neglect, then any policies which derive therefrom can only likewise suffer and fail to serve an organization well.


Policies both rest upon a pillar of ethics as well as consist of it. Legal requirements may be clearly spelled out while ethics is often another proposition altogether. As our communities become more complex socially, culturally, and technologically, it's imperative that any organization pledged to serve that constituency must formulate its position of ethics as a guide to navigate these increasingly choppy waters.

The Center's approach is not to impose its code of ethics upon clients but simply to empower clients to discover their own intrinsic ethical underpinnings and to provide tools whereby ethical principles can be evaluated against the impact of their practice. Once this analysis is done, we can then assist with any necessary adjustments based on that impact.

Policy Development

The process of policy development itself — if it is to be effective — requires a bedrock of policies to guide it, and therein lies a conundrum for many organizations. A sound policy structure can come only from a well functioning board; and it's for this reason that the Center provides a preliminary assessment of internal board processes as well as an independent facilitation of the policy development process in order to ensure a successful outcome.

Once the board assessment is complete, a board needs to ask itself some questions. Is there a sudden impetus behind the need for policy development at this time? If so, what is that impetus? This question is important because a board needs to establish that it does not already have prepackaged policies at the ready without having first determined there is a specific need which they are designed to address (or problem to solve).

The next step is then to pose some questions:

Policy Purpose:
What is the intention or desired outcome of the policy?

Policy Content:
What needs to be addressed in the policy?

Policy Evaluation:
How and when will the policy be evaluated regarding both outcome and content?

Policy Implementation:
Who has to approve the policy? Are there legal requirements for implementation or any existing organization policy that needs to be addressed prior to implementation?

These questions serve as a springboard for defining and shaping policies with staying power which truly serve the organization.

Constitution and Bylaws

Once having developed a set of governing and operating policies, the next step is to document these in some form. Generally this is done through the vehicle of a constitution and bylaws.