Agricultural Societies Program: Developing A Policy And Procedures Manual

 
 
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Why policy and procedures | Benefits of a policy and procedures manual | Definitions | Who should be involved | What makes good policy | What about procedures | What to include | How To...5 steps to develop policy and procedures | Example of Policy Development | Example of Procedure Development | Where to start | Keep it up to date | Evaluate | Conclusion | Appendix A - Example Policy Issues | Appendix B - Sample Format 1 | Appendix B - Sample Format 2 | References

This handbook is designed to help agricultural societies develop a policy and procedures manual for their unique organization.

Acknowledgements: Original handbook written by Fern Richardson

Why Policy and Procedures?

A well-laid out policy and procedures manual will help attract informed members and allow the organization to operate more efficiently and effectively.

A Real Life Example
The Namao Community Agricultural Society created a policy and procedures manual in 1991. They were evolving from a small group where everyone was acquainted to an umbrella organization for the community. Up to 15 different organizations were represented. How to meet everyone's needs and expectations and stay within budget was a major concern? Hall rental and catering were issues. New board members struggled to find out how things worked. Clearly there was potential for conflict.

What benefits have Namao found from having a policy and procedures manual?

  • Board members have an outline of the organization's structure.
  • The manual is a major resource for planning and coordinating events.
  • Event organizing runs more smoothly as details are written down.
  • Hall rentals are well detailed.
  • New members are quickly oriented to the organization by reviewing the manual.
  • Communication is improved between organizations.
  • Meetings are two hours or less.
The Namao Community Agricultural Society recognizes the need to update existing policy and develop new policies. Their manual is reviewed annually.

Obviously this is not a project for just one rainy afternoon. In fact, as Namao has found, a policy and procedures manual needs to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. But that's a good thing! It shows your organization is growing and changing to meet the unique needs of your community.

Benefits of a Policy and Procedures Manual

There are some very good reasons why it's worth the time and effort to commit what you are about and how you do it to paper. Here are some ways that written policy and procedures can benefit your agricultural society.

A policy and procedures manual can:
  • save time and effort.
      When issues arise the policy manual is checked for existing policy.
      Time spent reinventing the wheel or recreating policy is avoided.
  • assist in new member recruitment.
      Policy and procedures clearly tell interested people what you are all about.
  • provide detailed job descriptions
  • to orient new members, directors and employees and contract workers about their purpose, job standards and expectations.
  • provide continuity and consistency in decision making.
      They ensure the organization will stay on track even when the board of
      directors change.
  • set a positive direction for the organization.
      A guide for leadership which takes a proactive approach to present and
      future issues.
  • provide a way to review existing programs and services to ensure needs are met.
  • help avoid conflict and the potential for misunderstanding.
Definitions

By-laws are the basic rules of the organization. By-laws are clear statements about the rules of operation. They determine the responsibility and authority of the agricultural society and the board of directors. They must be consistent with the Agricultural Societies Act. For more information on by-laws see the publication Agricultural Society By-Laws available from the Agricultural Societies Program.

Once by-laws are in place, policies and procedures will naturally follow. By-laws provide the overall framework but don't cover day to day operations of your agricultural society. A policy and procedures manual gives your organization a tool to run the programs, facilities and events that are your unique contribution to the community.

Policies answer the questions WHY? and WHAT?

Why your agricultural society exists- it's philosophy, mission and goals.
What your agricultural society wants to be recognized for programs, activities and services.
Policies are the steps to put your goals into action.

Procedures answer the question HOW?
How you carry out the policies you create.
Procedures are the details that take policies to action.

Putting it all together
This chart shows how the organizational pieces of your agricultural society fit together.
.
Mytown Agricultural Society


Agricultural Societies Act,
Mission, By-laws
(Lay the foundation for your existence)


Goals and Objectives
(Outline the things you want to accomplish)


Policy
(Define why and what you are doing)


Procedures
(Outline the details)


Action
(Make the above steps reality)

Who Should Be Involved?

Policy ideas and suggestions can come from anyone. Committees, general members, contract people, staff or the general public may see a need requiring policy development. Encourage people to bring forward policy statements as the manual is developed. The board should consider this important input from the general membership as part of "board policy." Policy should be developed in consultation with those affected, then brought to the board of directors for final approval.

Policy can only be approved by the agricultural society board of directors. Remember all policy has legal implications. Board members are ultimately responsible for the policy, procedures and actions of their agricultural society.

What Makes Good Policy?

A policy and procedures manual must be usable. Keep the following items in mind during the development stage to help ensure the success of the manual. Remember policy answers
the WHY and WHAT questions about your day to day operations.

Good Policy:
  • Is always consistent with the requirements of your by-laws and the Agricultural Societies Act.
  • Reflects your organization's mission, goals and values.
  • Includes why the policy is needed, what are the intentions, when it comes into effect and who it affects.
  • Is based on fact not opinion.
  • Is future-oriented and proactive.
  • Is a general guide to aid your organization in decision making.
  • Can be created, adapted or changed at any regular meeting. In contrast, by-law changes must be approved at the annual general meeting or at a special meeting and are more difficult to create or change.
What About Procedures?

Although policies and procedures have been separated here to clarify their differences, they are developed at the same time and presented for board approval as a package.

Remember policy lays out WHY and WHAT. Procedures outline HOW. Use the five step process outlined on page eight for both policy and procedure development.

What to Include? Types of Policy and Procedures to Consider

When developing policy start with the most general then move on to the more specific. Some policy issues may be appropriate in more than one place (eg. conflict of interest). Consider listing general policies at the beginning of the manual or repeat the appropriate policy wherever it relates. Group policy into categories that are meaningful to your organization or develop each policy as it relates to your mission and goals.

The following four categories: people, money, facilities and equipment, and activities and programs have corresponding potential policy issues. This list is not exhaustive. Use it as a starting point for your organization. Each policy issue requires that a policy statement and procedures be developed. An example policy issue from each of these four categories is found in Appendix A.

People Issues Facility and Equipment Issues
VolunteersComplaints
ConfidentialityFacilities - rental fees, hours of operation
Public RelationsEquipment - loans or lease
Codes of ConductPublic Relations
.
Money IssuesActivities and Program Issues
Conflict of InterestCommunity involvement - volunteer, other groups
Financial PlanningComplaints
Budget AccessProgram Descriptions - type, target participants fees
FundraisingPublic Relations
Public Relations

How To...5 Steps to Develop Policy and Procedures.

The following is a method of putting policy and procedures together for your manual.

1) Identify issues
2) Draft policy
3) Approve policy
4) Implement
5) Review and evaluate

1) Identify issues
  • Review underlying concerns. Ask, "Do we have a policy about...?" Then, "Do we need a policy about...?"
  • Relate to philosophy, values, mission, goals. If it doesn't help further the mission and goals of your Agricultural Society then it may not be an appropriate issue for the organization.
  • Collect information that will help you draft the policy. Contact other Agricultural Societies or organizations in the community that have a similar situation.
  • Consult with people who will be affected. Get the big picture and remember good policy is based on fact, not opinion.
  • Describe desired outcome. What do you want this policy to do when implemented?
  • Outline alternatives that will give the desired outcome.
  • List positive and negative reactions that may occur. Look for weaknesses and limitations. Try to eliminate major gaps.
  • Choose the best alternative.
2) Draft policy
  • Make it as clear as possible. Use plain language, be brief and to the point.
  • Review with anyone it affects.
  • Be certain it is in agreement with by-laws.
3) Approve policy
  • Directors approve policy at a regular meeting.
  • Record in the minutes.
  • Add to policy handbook.
4) Implement
  • Communicate policy to all affected.
  • Put into action.
5) Review and evaluate
  • Review regularly.
  • Does everyone understand the policy as written?
  • Is it working?
  • Adapt to meet changing situations.
Example of Policy Development

The Mytown Agricultural Society's mission includes being a centre for the community. They have built a canteen/kitchen in their facility and need someone to run it. They believe policies need to be developed. The 5 step process would look like this:

1) Identify issues
The canteen/kitchen fits with their mission. Some issues include safe food practices, conflict of interest, contract requirements, buying/hiring locally, using outside caterers for other functions, non-member use, fees, pricing.
  • The committee talks to surrounding communities with similar facilities.
  • The health regulations are checked out.
  • Local caterers are brought into the discussion.
  • They decide the desired outcome of the general policy is to ensure safe, reasonably priced food service is available at the facility on a contract basis. More specific policies on buying and hiring locally, outside caterers and non-member use and fees need to be developed.
2) Draft
The general policy is written and reviewed with those affected. It is consistent with the Mytown Agricultural Society by-laws. The policy reads:
      The Mytown Agricultural Society will provide a safe and reasonably priced food service through it's canteen/kitchen. A caterer will be hired on contract to provide food service to all Agricultural Society functions.
3) Approve
The policy and procedures are brought to the Board for approval. The board's role is to ensure clarity and consistency of the policy and procedures. The policy is passed, recorded in the minutes and put in the manual.

4) Implement
The policy is put into action. People affected are notified in writing.

5) Review and evaluate
Once the policy is put into action it is monitored in it's first year for necessary changes. At the end of the contract the caterer is asked for input along with others affected.

Example of Procedure Development

Procedures are developed at the same time as the policy. The 5 step process for procedure development would look like this:

1) Identify issues
food safety
contract renewal
hours of operation
breaking contract
terms of contract
advertising
inspections
conflict of interest
outside caterers
2) Draft
The contract will be awarded on a yearly basis with a September 1st anniversary date.
The position will be advertised in the local paper and the Mytown Agricultural Society Newsletter- summer edition.

The contract will not be awarded to anyone in the immediate family of a board member. (See policy on conflict of interest.)

The caterer chosen must have certification from the FOOD SAFE program.

Hours of operation will be 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm Monday to Friday and 8:30 am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

The contract can be terminated by either party with four weeks notice in writing to the secretary.

Contract renewal is not guaranteed.

The caterer has right of first refusal on all other catering activities occurring in the facility.

3) Approve
The procedures are brought forward with the policy for Board approval. Any changes are made. It is passed and put in the master handbook. Copies are provided to all handbook holders.

4) Implement
The policy and procedures are put into action. People affected are notified in writing.

5) Review and evaluate
Once the procedures are put into action they are monitored in the first year for necessary changes. At the end of the contract the caterer is asked for input along with others affected.

Where to Start? Writing Tips and Format

1. A committee or an individual can develop the handbook. It will depend on who's interested and how large the project is. Some prefer that one person writes for consistency in writing style. A committee is helpful with a large project and at the information gathering stage.

2. Decide how far back in the minutes you want to go. In most cases five years back is sufficient. As a rule, anything prior to that is probably out-dated.

3. Interview people with previous involvement. Have a special meeting or attend a regular committee meeting to find unwritten policy and procedures already in place. Get board input and comments from other people this may affect.

4. When writing the manual, start with general policies and then add the more specific ones. The 5 step process is a useful tool at this stage.

5. Choose a format. Two examples are found in Appendix B. The first one contains the basic information needed. The second one shows a more detailed option.

6. Write one policy per page. This makes updating easy.

7. It's important to list policy and procedures separately from the minutes for quick access. A separate handbook is easy to update and is an excellent way to orient new members.

8. Use a three ring binder, especially if updates are frequent.

9. Remember the completed information must be brought to the board of directors for approval. Unwritten policies need formal board acknowledgement.

Keep It Up To Date

Designate one person responsible for keeping the handbook current. It may be a role for the secretary or other board or committee member. The master copy should be kept with agricultural society records.

Update as new policy is approved or a change occurs.

All policy and procedures manual holders should receive updates.

Evaluate

Review policy regularly, at least every two years. Some things look good on paper but prove ineffective in practice. Since policy is not written in stone it can be changed by the board. Stagger review dates so everything isn't reviewed at once. Get input from a committee at their event evaluation meeting. A good check is to ask the question..."Does the policy work?".

Conclusion

It's a huge task for an individual to create a policy and procedures manual but it's an attainable goal with group effort. Spread the work around. Use available resources such as existing committees or past presidents and directors. When the committee effort is complete board approval is required.

A well thought out policy and procedures manual will help your organization fulfill it's mission and attain it's goals. It's another tool to help you provide focussed and consistent results. The benefits gained will reflect the effort put into creating your manual. It's worth doing a thorough job and keeping it up to date.

Appendix A - Example Policy Issues

The following examples for the Mytown Agricultural Society policy and procedures manual are based on the four categories of policy issues; people, money, facility and equipment and activities and programs. One example issue from each category is included.

People issues
Conflict of Interest Policy
      No member of the Mytown Agricultural Society Board of Directors or their immediate families shall benefit or profit financially from their volunteer commitment on the board.
Procedures
  • Directors shall notify the Board of any area where conflict of interest, or the appearance of such conflict, may arise.
  • Immediate family constitutes any related family member living with the Director.
  • In such a case the Director(s) will not vote on the matter or attempt to influence the matter in any way.
  • The Director(s) involved will not be counted as part of the quorum where a vote or decision on the issue will be taken.
Money issues
Fundraising Policy
      Mytown Agricultural Society will undertake a variety of fundraising efforts to support it's facility, programs, and special events.
Procedures
  • All fundraising activities will be approved by the Board of Directors.
  • Committees wanting to fundraise must present a budget for the activity to the budget committee for approval.
  • All fundraising done must clearly state it is for the Mytown Agricultural Society.
  • All money raised will be placed in the Mytown Agricultural Society bank account. Cash deposits must always be counted, recorded and deposit information signed by at least two members.
Facility and equipment issues
Facilities Policy
      Mytown Agricultural Society will provide facility access to programs that support rural youth.
Procedures
  • Hall rental fees for monthly meetings of organizations that support rural youth shall be waived (eg 4-H, Junior Forest Wardens). Consideration for other youth organizations will be given on a case by case basis at the discretion of the hall committee.
  • The facility must be left in the condition it was found or privileges can be revoked by the Board of Directors.
  • Access to the kitchen facility is at the hall committee's discretion. An adult must be present in the kitchen area when in use by youth groups.
  • Rural youth groups will be charged half the normal rental for the arena for special activities. (eg 4-H Achievement Days)
Activities and program issues
Program Policy for Fair
      Mytown Agricultural Society will sponsor a yearly community fair to encourage improvement in agriculture and homemaking skills.
Procedures
  • The fair committee will consist of at least one Director and two members.
  • The fair committee will hold an evaluation meeting within three weeks after the fair at which all sub-committees will submit a written report.
  • A final report from the fair committee will be made to the Board at the October monthly meeting.
  • There will be a minimum of five sub-committees to organize the fair. They will include: homemaking/horticulture bench show, livestock show, publicity, budget and catering. (Specific responsibilities of each committee are outlined in subsequent policies.)
  • Each sub-committee is responsible for preparing a budget and ordering the necessary supplies for their event.
  • A volunteer appreciation supper for all fair volunteers will be held the weekend following the fair.
  • The budget for this event will come from general revenues.
Appendix B - Sample Format 1

The following are two sample formats you can adapt for your manual. The Mytown Agricultural Society catering example is used.

    Subject of Policy - Facility/Catering
    Policy Statement
      The Mytown Agricultural Society will provide a safe and reasonably priced food service through it's canteen/kitchen. The cater, hired on a yearly contract, will provide catering to all Agricultural Society functions and has a right of first refusal on all other catering activities. (See attached contract)
    Procedures
      The contract will be awarded on a yearly basis with a September 1st anniversary date.The position will be advertised in the local paper and the Mytown Agricultural Society Newsletter summer edition.The contract will not be awarded to anyone in the immediate family of a Board member. (See policy on conflict of interest)The caterer chosen must have certification from the FOOD SAFE program.Hours of operation will be 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm Monday to Friday and 8:30 am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.The contract can be broken by either party with 4 weeks notice in writing to the secretary.Contract renewal is not guaranteed.The caterer has right of first refusal on all other catering activities occurring in the facility.
    Date of Final Approval - January 10, 2004
    Approved by - Motion recorded in January 10/04 minutes.

Appendix B - Sample Format 2

    Subject of Policy - Facility/Catering Policy Number - 001-02
    Replaces Former Policy: 001-01
    Policy Statement
      The Mytown Agricultural Society will provide a safe and reasonably priced food service through it's canteen/kitchen. The cater, hired on a yearly contract, will provide catering to all Agricultural Society functions and has a right of first refusal on all other catering activities. (See attached contract)
    Procedures
      The contract will be awarded on a yearly basis with a September 1st anniversary date. The position will be advertised in the local paper and the Mytown Agricultural Society Newsletter summer edition. The contract will not be awarded to anyone in the immediate family of a board member. (See policy on conflict of interest) The caterer chosen must have certification from the FOOD SAFE program. Hours of operation will be 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm Monday to Friday and 8:30 am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday. The contract can be broken by either party with 4 weeks notice in writing to the secretary. Contract renewal is not guaranteed. The caterer has right of first refusal on all other catering activities occurring in the facility.
    Date of Final Approval - January 10, 2004
    Approved by - Motion recorded in January 10/04 minutes.
    Review - Annually at contract renewal.

References

The following resources were used in researching this handbook:

Agricultural Societies Act
Queen's Printer

Board Basics Unit Three
United Way

By Definition: Policies For Volunteer Programs A manual for Executive Directors,
Board Members and Managers of Volunteers.
Linda L. Graff
Volunteer Ontario, 1993

Fact Sheet on Policy Development
Alberta Agriculture
Community Services Branch
1990

Family and Community Support Services
Self-Audit Guide...POLICY...Are we covered?
1989

"How To Manual" Policy Development
Alberta Municipal Affairs
Municipal Services Branch

Namao Community Agricultural Society
Policy Manual
1991

The Recreation Board Member's
Guide To Policy Development
Alberta Recreation and Parks
Recreation Development Division
1984

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Fred Young.
This document is maintained by Mercedes Lincango.
This information published to the web on June 30, 2006.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 11, 2013.