It may be the right time for your NGO to start looking at the people it employs in an organised way. Perhaps your NGO needs to develop a Human Resources policy. What issues do you need to consider?

Here is a checklist. For each item, ask yourselves: "concerning this, is our NGO …doing well? …doing something but not enough? …doing almost nothing?"


1 The mission of the NGO: the main programmes that (it is hoped) the NGO will be putting in place in three to five years; the people/personnel that will be needed.  

2 The current number of staff and the estimated number that should be recruited over the next three to five years to implement these programmes and to provide necessary support services; the current number of volunteers from the community/user groups and the estimated number that should be recruited.

3 The Board, its makeup, functions and responsibilities now and as envisioned in three to five years' time.

4 The principles of diversity and equality within its personnel to which the NGO is committed - in recruitment, training, selection etc. This would cover gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, religion, disability, health status (e.g. HIV status), age mix etc. It could also cover any commitment to get member of the user groups trained for higher functioning. To what extent these principles are currently put into practice and, if they are not yet in practice, a plan to make it happen.

5 The knowledge, attitudes and skills that NGO staff and volunteers will need in three to five years' time and the extent that these are present at the moment. A resource list of people and institutions that could provide training, including on-the-job training within the NGO. A plan of who, where, how and when training should happen.

6 A Code of Behaviour – if experience has shown that some staff can behave badly on occasion. This would include the attitudes and behaviour shown by staff towards each other and towards beneficiaries e.g. in solving conflicts.

7 The Employment policy of the country.

8 Working conditions at present and any changes planned for the next three to five years:

  • pay structure and whether this is comparable to similar organisations and Union standards; working times and days; transport, holidays, special days;
  • how each employee is managed - led, - is consulted - can give feedback to the NGO; the role of individuals in decision-making;
  • promotion and career opportunities;
  • reporting, supervision, training and management of individuals;
  • procedures for discipline; existence of a Code of Behaviour; any internal and external checks on the correctness of such procedures;
  • health and safety – care of sick staff, care of families; security plans for fire, accidents, terrorism;
  • the extent to which employees feel valued and feel that they belong to the NGO and feel that their skills are being used;
  • whether Job Descriptions and contracts are clear, cover all these factors and reflect what employees are really doing. Whether employees have the skills to carry out their job and, if not, have the chance of further training.

9 Protocols for certain situations – like instant dismissal and accidents.

10 Recruitment policy – who, where, when and how and what kind of qualifications.
11 What it will all cost – a financial plan including possible sources of funding.

Further reading:

»  folder How to Succeed in Your Work  – Humans are probably the most valuable resource that you have in your NGO. And the resource that you are most likely to improve, quickly and efficiently, is yourself.

»  folder How to Build a Good Small NGO – Section B, 8.5: the example of “Building Capacity in the Fenji Water Project”.

»  folder On Being in Charge – Part II, “Working with People”.