Policy Development for Nonprofits

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

Luke 14:1-6

Pre-pandemic, a nonprofit adopted a new policy that ensured that all events would be successful. If the event didn’t raise money for a specific revenue goal or above, the event would not be planned. Likewise, if the expenses did not meet a certain threshold (or were below it), the event would not happen. In other words, the organization was protecting against the possibility of losing money on an event.

While the intention was good, and the staff supported the enforcement and accountability of the policy, one dissenting voice raised a concern: What if the event wasn’t to raise money, but to raise awareness or greet new prospective donors? Her take was that the organization was doing things right, but not always doing the right thing.

I ran into this particular conundrum while listening to a 5-minute podcast about nonprofit accounting. Policies are there to guide an organization, but not to hamper the mission. Writing a policy broad enough to be clear, and yet direct enough to instruct, can be an art.

You could say that Jesus was an artist, too. He knew how to balance doing the right thing and doing things right. He knew how to bring clarity and instruction without couching it in so many words that the meaning was lost—and said it all with grace, too. Not easy!

Perhaps some identified tension at the dinner table in the passage above. Jesus did what Jesus does; He healed the one in front of him that had a need. What strikes me about this passage is his questions to those around him. He asked them twice, “Are you doing the right thing, or doing things right?” In response, “they had nothing to say” (verse 6).

This may be the time of year to evaluate your actions, the self-imposed “rules” you place on yourself, the habits you have. Are they bad policies? Or, do they allow for the need in front of you to be taken care of immediately? Look to ways that you can do the right thing today, rather than doing things right for the sake of policy.

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Photo by Pixaby on Pexels.

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

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