HR Basics

Human Resources: The Basics

Effective management of human resources is essential for creating successful organizational results. Nonprofit organizations should exercise fair and equitable human resource practices that attract and retain qualified individuals. Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all legal employment requirements and to provide a safe work environment. Nonprofit organizations should establish specific policies and practices that promote mutual cooperation to advance the organization’s interests, and that reflect appropriate industry standards for remuneration. (Source: Nonprofit Good Practices Guide)


Your organization's personnel policies define what the agency can expect from its employees, and the employees can expect from the agency. The policies should be written within the first year of hiring staff. They will help the organization maintain positive employee relations, preventing conflicts arising from misunderstandings.

Personnel policies often address the following topics:

  • Employee definitions (full-time, part-time, etc.) and organizational structure
  • Affirmative action and Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Hiring and termination procedures
  • Salaries and benefits
  • Absences, vacations and holidays
  • Sexual harassment
  • Substance abuse and testing
  • Employee evaluation
  • Grievance procedures and employee appeals  

Evaluating Nonprofit Employees

Employee performance evaluations will help your organization accomplish four main goals:

  • Allow staff and supervisor to communicate about performance expectations
  • Identify training needs
  • Direct and counsel staff about performance improvement
  • Determine compensation and position changes

Evaluating Executive Directors

One responsibility of the Board of Directors is appraising the work of the organization's Executive Director (ED). A performance evaluation can help to improve the confidence, support, growth and working relationship between the Board and the ED. While this review is sometimes avoided or done poorly, it represents an opportunity to identify challenges in program or performance, reward the ED, and strengthen the organization's overall administration.

The ED's performance should be measured in relation to his or her job description, and the evaluation may cover the following activity areas: staff relations; administration; planning; leadership; fiscal management; external public relations; effectiveness in working with the board to fulfill the annual plan; and effectiveness in helping the board achieve its own accountability and level of responsibility. 

Resources for employee evaluation, policy development and other HR functions can be found here.