Policies You Need

Whether we love them or we hate them, every organization needs written policies. Policies assure efficient operation of the organization by standardizing procedures. And they help to assure compliance with applicable laws and regulations and the terms of award agreements.

Some policies are specifically required by regulation, while others are useful in assuring the allowability of certain costs.

Federal regulations (and agreement terms) require an organization to maintain written policies on the following:

These are just highlights from 2 CFR 200 and USAID. Other federal agencies impose additional policy requirements. One of the most thorough listings of required policies can be found in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) HHS Grants Policy Statement (GPS). In that document, see material beginning on page II-2 (page 56 of the PDF), Public Policy Requirements. Reviewing that section of the GPS, you'll get a sense of the range of policy requirements that may be imposed on you as a recipient of federal assistance funding. See also About CDC Regulations and Policies.

Accounting, Property Standards, Travel and Hiring/Compensation policies help to assure allowability of certain costs, as specified in the regulations.

Generally, an employee's first responsibility is to comply with the organization's written policies and procedures—even though the funder will usually be interested in compliance with regulations.

It is best practice that any discrepancies between the terms of the agreement and written policy must be resolved by management before costs are incurred.

Other pages on this site include extended discussions on the following policy topics:

Your policies exist in the context of your organization's legal structure: it's legal status, rules for governance and management (think directors and officers), and how you organize your work (perhaps you use projects or departments or divisions or some combination of those concepts).

You’re probably familiar with your mission and values statements, but beyond those, have you read your organization’s legal charter? You’re no doubt incorporated under the laws of some significant political entity (usually a state). You need to understand the legal foundation of your organization:

  • the law(s) that sanction your establishment as a company;
  • your status with respect to tax laws that apply to you (are you for-profit or not-for-profit?);
  • your founding document (often called Articles of Incorporation);
  • the rules of governance (Bylaws) that establish your governing body (Board of Directors, Officers) and guide the operations of the organization; and
  • how business authority flows from the board of directors down to staff who make day-to-day decisions on behalf of the organization.

All of these factors determine what you do and how you do it. And they provide the context necessary for you to create effective policies.

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