A guide to important board policies

by Sean O'Neill on Jun 8, 2022

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A question often asked is – ‘What are board policies and what policies do boards typically oversee?’

The key points covered in this guide include:

  • Policies help the organisation reach its long term goals
  • They set expectations for board members and executives
  • Policies represent the voice of the board 
  • A policy manual can act as a reference for policies
  • Regular review and application of policies are essential if they are to succeed
  • How to define a policy
  • The most common types of policies
  • Who is responsible for seeing policies through
  • What is a policy manual?
  • Why policies are important
  • The difference between policies and laws
  • How often a board should review its policies


Why are policies important?

Policies help provide guidance and consistency to members and stakeholders.

How often should the board review their policies?

This can depend on the context the organisation is operating within. For a relatively stable organisation, it might review its policies every three to five years. Still, an organisation starting up might choose to review its policies more frequently.

Policy formation and review can be an area which organisations struggle with. While they might understand the importance of written documentation to guide the effective running of the business, it can be challenging to get it right. Using a critical policy framework can help. Firstly, organisations should establish a policy hierarchy by determining which documents should take precedence. They should also set out a process for developing new policies, and the roles and responsibilities of those involved in making the policies should be made clear.

In summary

  • Policies are essential for maintaining consistency and helping the board achieve its goals. 
  • They represent the board’s voice when it is not around, and regular review is critical if they are to succeed. 
  • The key types of policies the board might focus on include board membership agreements, code of conduct policies, conflicts of interest and gift acceptance policies, along with discrimination and whistleblower policies. 

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