Governance Policy: Easy Four-Part Structure

Posted in policy / board of directors

Governance Policy: Easy Four-Part Structure

The board of a non-profit has a complex job. It is accountable to the stakeholders to meet the strategic goals, while at the same time governing the organization and monitoring management.

No experience, no time, no problem!

Non-profit board members rarely come to the position with a wealth of governance knowledge. Couple that with board members being employed in jobs not connected to the non-profit, and there will be little time to research, write, implement, and evaluate the policies needed to govern.

Sort policy into four categories.

Rather than create a mixed bag collection of policies, a non-profit board can use the four-quadrant governing policies framework, to stay organized and to use a structure that is easily updated as the non-profit grows or hires a paid staff team.

Section #1 – Strategic Goals

The first section draws from the organization’s vision statement, by describing how the board will stay connected to its stakeholders and its commitment to strategic planning.

Section #2 – Board Procedures

The second section describes the board’s job and responsibilities. Even if the non-profit has no paid employees, and volunteer board members handle all the work, this section is strictly about how the board will govern. Keeping governing separate from operations will make this section much easier to update as the non-profit grows.

Section #3 – Delegation of Duties

The third section is the set of policies that will change significantly as a non-profit grows. In the early days when there are no paid employees, this section will describe the roles and responsibilities of the volunteers doing the work. When a non-profit is ready to hire its first CEO, this section can be updated to describe the roles and responsibilities of the CEO.

Section #4 – Management Boundaries

The final section will describe the boundaries within which the board wants the work completed. At first glance, this seems very similar to section #3, and they are linked. But rather than describing who will do the work and how they will report, this section focusses more on what is acceptable and not acceptable.

What is and what isn’t governance policy?

Governing policies don’t need to be long or super-detailed. A non-profit can begin by writing very broad statements and provide more detail over time, if needed.

Using the four-quadrant system is also a great self-check tool when considering a new policy. If a new policy doesn’t fit into one of the four sections, it likely belongs in bylaws or operational policies.

Not sure how to get started? Follow these steps...

If you would like to learn more about governing policies and the four-quadrant system, download my free Governing Policies Planning Guide. In this guide, I’ll explain more about each section and provide a list of the types of policies a non-profit might want to create.


I would love to learn more about the governing policy system at your non-profit or answer any questions you might have. Please use the form on the right side of the page to let me know.


Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a small non-profit. No more browsing the internet for resources from large-team experts when you are a one-person show. No more leadership development tips when you need practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation.

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