In December 2022, the Nonprofit Association of Washington board approved new and improved personnel policies designed to move toward the future we would like to see for all nonprofits. We are sharing our process and some of the decisions we made in the hope that it will inspire other nonprofits to review and improve their own policies. Board and staff provided input during the policy’s development, and LeeAnne Beres, Deputy Director for Operations, took the lead in researching and drafting the handbook.
We undertook this update now to accomplish four main goals: to combine existing policies in one document, ensure compliance with current HR and legal standards, make our policies more equitable, and respond to employee requests.
1. Bring all of our various policies under one roof
There were existing board-approved policies that weren’t included in our personnel policies, such as our COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, Whistleblower Policy, and other stand-alone policies that affect staff. We started by pulling together all of these policies, as well as existing language from our current employee manual, and incorporated them into the new employee handbook
2. Build out the employee handbook and bring it in line with current HR and legal compliance
The new employee handbook Includes new sections and much more information addressing equal opportunity & commitment to diversity, the employment relationship between NAWA and its staff, safety and security, general employment policies, and workplace guidelines. LeeAnne used templates and language from the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM), National Council of Nonprofits, and other highly regarded sources for language already vetted by lawyers and HR professionals to build out these sections.
To further ensure that our personnel policies are legally compliant, we arranged for a thorough review of the handbook by our insurance carrier’s pre-litigation department. Our carrier provides a professional risk analysis of employee manuals to minimize liability and ensure compliance, which is free as part of our insurance coverage through NPIP.
3. Increased focus on equity
The new employee handbook was developed with equity in mind. It specifically addresses anti-racism and microaggressions in the workplace and provides clear pathways for addressing problems. It adds a section about respectful language and use of personal pronouns, clarifies family & medical leave, includes a new provision for Responsive Time Off for employees from impacted communities in times of widespread community trauma, and has a strong focus on staff wellness and support, among many other improvements.
We used the Anti-Racist HR Guidebook and examples from social justice organizations and other progressive nonprofits as guides in this work. LeeAnne also consulted other nonprofit leaders focused on developing a culture of care for staff through an equity lens.
4. Requests from NAWA staff for changes in some of the benefits offered
NAWA staff at all levels requested changes in some of the benefits offered, particularly in how leave is structured. Key changes include turning the Veteran’s Day holiday into a floating personal holiday, allowing for flexibility in observing different religious or cultural holidays, dividing PTO into separate vacation and sick leaves, expanding the overall amount of leave, and adding a provision for staff sabbaticals after 5 years of service.
Our hope is that these changes make NAWA a more attractive and more equitable workplace. We invite other nonprofit organizations to examine how they demonstrate care for their employees and support them to have balanced lives that allow for rest, wellness, family caregiving, or other priorities beyond work.
Our new Employee Handbook is available as a sample resource for NAWA members via the NAWA Member Resources page.