What Are Board Policies?

Even the most organized, responsible, and amiable board needs to document its activities, internal policies, practices, and processes. Some of the documentation is legally required while some is simply helpful to have in guiding the work of the Board and Executive Leadership. Some documents should be kept confidential, while other information can be shared beyond the Board. Some serve as guidelines for decision making while others are part of the record keeping. For a board that takes its fiduciary role seriously, written rules simply are part of necessary risk management. 

Best practice for Board policies is to create a Board Policy Manual.   Within this Policy Manual, there should be information on the duties, authority limits, and principal operating procedures for the Board, Board members and Chief Executive.  These policies should be reviewed for fine-tuning every few years and is an excellent tool for onboarding new Board members.

Board policies generally include sections that relate to the following:

Foundational – documents such as Bylaws, Mission, Vision, Values and any important relationships. 

Governance – includes documents related to job descriptions (Board, Board Chair, etc.), eligibility, powers, duties, conflict of interest, code of conduct, confidentiality, anti-harassment, and Board Committee responsibilities.

Executive Accountability – includes information on operating expectations for Board and Staff, accountability for the Board and Chief Executive, communication expectations, human resources and financial services management, compensation and other issues related to more of the operational functions.

Organizations have unique cultures and structures requiring Board and Executive Leadership discernment on developing a Policy Manual. The initial step is to begin the process of organizing current policies and practices that are already in place, and then adding those policies and processes mentioned above that may not be in existence. 

MHS has sample Board Policy Manuals for consideration.  For more information or support, contact Karen Lehman,


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