Do your staff know the difference between policies and procedures?

Policies are the rules for the association. They state appropriate standards of action and behavior for all employees.

Procedures are the instructions for the association. They describe who does the task, what steps must be performed, when those steps should be performed, and how the task should be performed.

Why create a Policy and Procedure Manual?

Last May, I became the treasurer for a preschool. This transition should have been easy for me, as I have experience working with volunteer boards and have a good understanding of how they operate. I was very wrong. The transition has been a much more stressful and time-consuming process than it should have been. I now see why they have had trouble keeping a volunteer in this position in the past. The procedure “manual” I received was a two-page document with passwords, links to websites, and three paragraphs of ‘this needs to be done’ and ‘this is how to do it’. Only a fraction of the job procedures were written down. In order to learn the remaining job procedures, I had to spend hours reviewing old files, asking questions to previous board members, and searching online to make sure I was doing my job correctly. All of that extra time and stress could have easily been avoided if they had an appropriate policy and procedure manual.

What policies and procedures should you have?

During Strauss’ AMCI accreditation process, our office put together a policy and procedure manual for the company as well as standard operating procedures for each individual association management client. These manuals give an overview of the procedures that need to be followed to be successful in each job position.

There are many items to be included in a policy and procedure manual. As this is a very important document, it may take some time to create, but in the long run it will save both time and training.

Some important items that we have in our Strauss manual are:

  • Quality Customer Service Policy
  • Office Procedures (Courier, Supplies and Mail)
  • Record Keeping Requirements
  • Records Management
  • Records Segmentation/Organization and Retention Schedule (Manual and Electronic)
  • Management of Association Client Funds
  • Team Member Recruitment and Selection
  • Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable Processes

Below is one example of a policy that we have in place in our office:

The following is a Strauss policy on customer service:

1. All telephone messages are to be returned within 24 business hours

If someone calls with a question that you cannot answer right away, get back to them within 24-hours and let them know that you are looking in to it and will let them know as soon as you find something.

The standard operating procedure (SOP) manuals that have been created for each association client all have a set format and begin with an introduction to that client. The membership application and membership renewals processes are very important and are always included in these documents.. For detailed information on the renewal process, you can read my last blog Association Membership Renewals: Are You Ready?

Items to be included in each SOP depend on the association, but could include the following:

  • Membership application process
  • Membership renewal process
  • Event process
  • Board meeting
  • Annual General Meetings
  • Social media process
  • Store orders
  • Testing/exam process

Here is an example of one of our membership application procedures:

Membership Review Process

When an application is received in the office:

  • Check the name against the member database to see if they’ve ever been a member or made a purchase
  • Review application for completion – especially important that Candidate applications include a signed letter of reference from supervisor – check that the name and certification number are correct
  • If application is not complete, contact the applicant to request the missing information
    – Follow up twice by e-mail, and then once by phone
    – Track any communication on a page added to the application

Once application is determined to be complete:

  • Enter new member into Association Management System and create an invoice – must be an Active Member to create invoice
  • Send a “Welcome to the…” e-mail with a PDF copy of their invoice, include member login information so they can pay their dues online via credit card.

Although it may seem like a daunting task to go through the process of creating a policy and procedure manual, it is a very important document that will benefit your organization far more than the investment in time it takes to create.