6 Things to Keep in Mind When Updating Policies and Procedures

Posted Thursday, August 10th, 2017 by Melodie Bissell, President of Plan to Protect™, adapted by Sterling Volunteers

You may have read the title of this blog and thought to yourself, “My organization has a well written manual with comprehensive policies and procedures.  Why would we need to update it?” Most organizations carefully piece together policies and procedures that fit their particular mission when they first begin – but how long ago was that? Since those regulations were first installed, have your organization’s board members or volunteer managers gotten together to review and refresh the guidelines that keep you, your organization, and your volunteers safe and compliant?

The volunteer landscape is continually evolving – likewise, your policies and procedures should grow to reflect changes to a multitude of compliance matters. Some examples include a church that offers access to training but does not mandate it, a large humanitarian organization that does not screen volunteers, and a community center that views verbal abuse as culturally acceptable, among others.

Whether it’s abuse coverage, liability insurance, or general legal standards, updating policies and procedures doesn’t have to be an extremely time-consuming task, but you do need to commit to doing some research. To help you get started on refreshing your organization’s operating guidelines here are 6 trends our partners are currently facing:

  1. Abuse Coverage Exclusion – Check into whether abuse coverage is included or excluded from your current insurance plan. It’s likely not – and you will need to add it on separately in order to meet your requirements for coverage.
  2. Social Media – These days, staff members and volunteers have access to kids and other vulnerable populations via social media beyond the parameters of your program. They can engage with them via email, FaceBook, Twitter, Text, Instagram, web cameras, etc. Put policies in place around this interaction.
  3. Gender Identity –  This is a sensitive issue – and one that is no longer taboo. Children or vulnerable populations might state they don’t identify with their gender of birth and request access to programs, washrooms, shower rooms, and housing for the opposite gender.  What are your organization’s guidelines in these situations?
  4. Child to Child Abuse – For every report we hear of abuse within an organization we hear two reports of child-to-child abuse ― young teens abusing children. Make sure your volunteers and staff know how to handle these cases of abuse by program participants.
  5. Outside User Groups – In the past your organization may have allowed home school groups, piano teachers, martial arts programs, and daycares to use your building for free, or as rentals. But consider the additional risk to your own organization if harm happens. Put additional requirements in place for those organizations that don’t fall under your mandate, but are using your buildings to service the vulnerable sector.
  6. Custody and Restraining Orders – The number of single parent families is growing and the divorce rate is rising. You may need to revise your policies and procedures for registration, sign-in and sign-out of minors and other vulnerable populations.
Also, there may be changes you’ve made within your activities, programs, facilities, and staffing (i.e. you may have added a new site, a visitation program for at-risk kids, or mentoring program) that may require your policies to be updated in order to include protection procedures. We highly suggest you re-look at your policy each time you add a new activity or program.

Volunteer Managers, what steps do you and your organization take to keep your policies and procedures up-to-date with volunteer trends and compliance issues? For Policy templates, customization and updates, connect with Plan to Protect.

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*This article originally appeared on Plan to Protect’s website. All rights belong to Plan to Protect, copyright 2017.