HR 101 for Board Members

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
    positive.
  • Create professional boundaries with your reports and avoid giving the impression of
    favoritism.
  • Expect, model and develop a reputation for equal treatment and respect throughout
    your department/organization.

2. Responsiveness

  • 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.


Headshot of Aviva KammAbout 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.

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