Introduction to policies

Policies are the guiding principles by which an organisation is run. They set out a group's kaupapa and tikanga (the core values and principles), and the processes by which the group operates.

Policies are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions taken by an organisation. Procedures provide specific guidelines for actioning these policies.


  • clarify the organisation's mission, values and strategic direction
  • provide boundaries and instructions for appropriate action
  • provide guidelines to ensure consistent decision-making
  • provide a consistent response to commonly occurring events
  • define membership priorities and standards
  • ensure the group is accountable, safeguarding it from possible legal problems or criticism.

Organisations should have two levels of policy:

  1. Governance policies - designed, endorsed and monitored by the board. e.g. an organisation's mission statement.
  2. Operational policies - designed, endorsed and monitored by management, e.g. an organisation's policy on computer use.

Policies resources in the Community Resource Kit

Words used

  • policies - set out the kaupapa and tikanga what needs to happen (or not)
  • procedures - set out the processes for putting policy into action.

Why have policies?

Some reasons for a group to maintain a set of policies are:

  • so the people in an organisation have a framework for action that helps them get on with the job
  • efficiency - so people in the organisation don't have to discuss the same issues every time they arise. One well thought-out decision can be applied to many similar cases
  • to provide transparency and accountability to the work of the organisation
  • to comply with legal and regulatory requirements
  • to comply with accreditation standards, and
  • to keep improving the quality of service and delivery.



Benefits of having a clear policy framework

Clients/service recipients

  • know what to expect and how to address any concerns.

Staff (including volunteers)


  • have clear roles and boundaries
  • know what is expected of them
  • can rely on the policies to say no when asked to do something that is outside policy (e.g. that may involve a conflict of interest).



  • has a framework for managing the organisation
  • is provided with a degree of protection when challenged about issues beyond their control where proper procedures have been followed (e.g. if a child is harmed and a community agency working with the family blamed).

Committee/board members


  • have a way of setting and communicating the values of the organisation both internally and externally.

Other community members/agencies

  • know where the organisation stands and where other groups may link in with them.

Funders (including potential funders)


  • can see whether (or how) a funding proposal fits in with the organisational mission and values
  • are provided with a degree of confidence that the organisation is able to undertake the project for which it is seeking funding.

The organisation

  • is able to present itself clearly
  • manages its risks.

Adapted from Paul Bullen Management Alternatives:


Next page: Developing policies

Contents of the Community Resource Kit