July 16, 2009

Venable Model Nonprofit Governance Policies

2 min

In Fall 2008, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released a dramatically redesigned Form 990. Although the 2008 Form 990 allows tax-exempt organizations to better describe their activities and contributions to the community, it also requires significantly more disclosure than it ever has before.
Venable attorneys have drafted this set of model policies with a few basic objectives in mind. First and foremost, we want your organization to be prepared when it files its next Form 990. These forms are designed to help you gather the information you need to describe your organization with accuracy and confidence. By adopting the policies by the end of your taxable year—as early as December 31, 2008 for many organizations—you will be positioned to answer “yes” to several key questions in Part VI.
Second, we recognize that there is no one best approach to any of these policies. Rather than adopting these model documents word for word, treat them as blueprints and craft a set of policies that fits the size and scope of your particular organization. We often provide you with more than one version of the same policy to help you with this task.
Finally, we hope that these documents lay the groundwork for year-round practices that strengthen and protect your organization well beyond the scope of annual reporting requirements. Simply adopting these policies as you find them may satisfy the narrow goal of being able to check the “yes” box on the IRS Form 990, but that alone affords little security in the long run. In fact, failure to enforce a written policy may cause your organization to be worse off than had it never adopted the policy at all.
Use this period of adjustment to the new Form 990 to your advantage. Implement new policies to encourage candor and transparency, and revisit old policies that may prevent your organization from putting its best face forward. Good governance need not be overly burdensome or complicated, but it does take some thought.
To request these documents in an adaptable and usable format, please contact Cheryl Burchette at clburchette@venable.com or 202.344.4528.