As a nonprofit board member, you are probably aware of your basic fiduciary and governance responsibilities. But how can you help your nonprofit protect one of its most valuable assets – its people – while protecting the organization and yourself from potential corporate – and personal – liability? Washington Women’s Foundation presented a special 3-part “Human Resources 101” series to help board members and executive directors navigate this topic.
Here are a few best practices shared by series presenter Aviva Kamm that nonprofits and their leaders can take to minimize and manage legal issues:
Best Practices for Board Members
- Attend board meetings, designated committee meetings and trainings.
- Review materials in advance of meetings.
- Ask questions and participate in board discussions.
- Review meeting minutes and confirm abstentions or dissents are recorded.
- Study and understand issues; consider information, opinions, reports and statements prepared and presented by appropriate professionals or authorities.
- Follow the conflict-of-interest policy and disclose conflicts as they arise.
- Voice dissent (when you feel it) and make sure dissent and rationale is recorded in meeting minutes.
- Avoid misuse or misappropriation of donor lists or information.
- Do not abuse privilege of position, e.g. with employees or volunteers.
- Prioritize payroll; don’t let wages go unpaid on your watch.
Best Practices for Personnel Management
1. Accessibility & Feedback
- Be available and take the initiative to touch base.
- Don’t wait for performance evaluations to give people feedback, either negative or
- Create professional boundaries with your reports and avoid giving the impression of
- Expect, model and develop a reputation for equal treatment and respect throughout
- Practice reflective listening.
- Don’t be a black hole: Loop back to employees with resolution or updates of their concerns; even if you do not agree with them or implement their desired changes, the employees won’t feel ignored altogether.
3. Consistency & Fairness
- Don’t confuse consistency with being equal. You can deviate from past practice, as long as you can articulate the rationale for different treatment.
4. Document your efforts
- Most effective tool for monitoring performance and demonstrating fairness.
- Critical if a claim is filed.
- Poor, biased, or “hit or miss” documentation is worse than none at all.
- Consistency is critical: Do not document on a selective or disparate basis; do not
pad a file.
About the presenter: Aviva Kamm is a Shareholder at the Seattle law firm Stokes Lawrence, PS. Aviva represents employees and employers facing issues involving discrimination, wrongful termination, wage/hour issues and noncompete and nonsolicitation provisions. She also advises employers on a broad range of day-to-day and strategic human resources issues, including worker classification, FMLA administration, disability accommodation, discipline and I-9 (employment eligibility) compliance.
All information above was developed by Aviva Kamm, Shareholder at Stokes Lawrence, P.S.