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Nonprofit handbook examples

List of handbooks written by social movements
11 min read
Last update: Apr 27, 2023

In this article, you will find a list of handbooks used by nonprofits and social movements. Use these examples as inspiration to write your own!

How to write a handbook?

The most important advice we can give you: do not try to reinvent the wheel!

Why? Well, experienced campaigners from across the globe have written thousands of guides about change-making. In fact, on Activist Handbook alone, you can find 450+ guides and links to 4.7K external resources. And we're discovering new materials every day.

When writing a handbook, focus on what makes your organisation unique. Explain how your employees and volunteers can operate in your specific context. For everything else, link to existing resources out there.

Are the existing resources out there not good enough? Improve them! Everyone can edit Activist Handbook.

List of handbooks

Specific examples of organisational handbooks

Permanent (e.g. workplaces, businesses, NGOs)

  • Most of my organising experience is in Loomio, a software co-op with a great handbook.

  • Loomio is one of many social enterprises in the Enspiral network. The Enspiral Handbook explains how we self-govern with around 200 people.

  • Crisp DNA is the handbook from a self-organising company of 35+ autonomous consultants. They do cool things with money and ownership!

  • Gini is a tech company in Germany. The Gini Handbook is particularly strong on decision-making, with useful sections on communication skills, personal growth, and feedback.

  • The GitLab Handbook is especially relevant for people working in remote teams — they have more than 800 staff in 50+ countries, and no central location.

  • OuiShare Handbook – structures and practices for the distributed OuiShare network

  • Hanno Playbook - a self-managing team of 8 designers with excellent documentation about the internal operations of their company

  • Software Mill is a fully-remote company of 50+ people. Their handbook is particularly good on decision-making and communication in a remote team.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous operate as an “upside-down organisation”. Their manual is an up-to-date summary of 80+ years of decentralised organising at scale.

  • The IETF is the principal body governing the development of the Internet. Their open, voluntary, self-organising principles are documented in the Tao of the IETF.

  • A Feminist Organization’s Handbook is a beautiful resource from the Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles. They explain how they work, with the expressed intention of helping others to learn from their experience.

  • Public Interest Research Center is a thinktank for civil society, helping social movements tell better stories. They’ve recently transitioned to a flat organisational structure. No handbook yet, but they published this excellent story about the transition.

  • Platform is an arts /education / research /activism org. No public handbook, but their Social Justice Waging System is impressive.

  • How to Start a Tool Lending Library is a toolkit hosted by, a site which they are seeking to convene a “Lending Library Alliance”, to promote the establishment of new Libraries of Things and Tool Libraries across the country and around the world by spreading the idea, inspiring the creation of new tool lending libraries, and providing the information and assistance necessary…

  • Transition Towns’ Essential Guide to doing Transition is available in many languages.

  • Valve Employee Handbook – Valve is a software company that works without bosses. They published their handbook in 2012.

  • Edgeryders is a unique online community and company, a kind of thinktank and mutual aid network. A lot of their work is done in public, e.g. see their Principles for collaboration and operations in Edgeryders. “No plan is the plan.”

  • The Borderland a collaborative community organized around an annual participatory event. It organizes itself using two processes: Dream Prototyping and Consensual Do-ocracy, also known as the Advice Process, influenced by Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations.

  • Outseta Operating Agreement - Outseta is a SaaS company with a fully distributed team that has adopted self-management. We’ve made our operating agreement public: how we make functional and financial decisions. We also published an overview of what self-management is, an overview to folks new to the subject.

  • 350 Seattle – Structure resources for a campaigning org

  • Open Coop Governance Model designed for use in the Guerilla Translation co-op, as a model for others to remix

  • DisCO Co-op Manifesto and Governance Model - this site for learning all about Distributed Cooperative Organizations (which is an evolution of the Open Coop Goverance Model above)

  • Scaling Agile at Spotify: explaining how Spotify’s 250+ tech staff coordinate across tribes, squads, chapters and guilds.

  • Bridge Foundry - a network of self-organized free programming workshops for underrepresented folks in different cities and different languages/frameworks. How to Organize a Railsbridge Workshop encourages anybody to create a workshop, and the Workshop Cookbook contains detailed instructions.

  • Camplight - a digital cooperative that creates experiences for the web, mobile and beyond. In August 2019 they published their internal guideline. More stories can be found on Medium.

  • Root Systems - a small high-trust livelihood pod doing tech consulting and software development within the Enspiral network.

  • NeurodiVenture Operating Model – equipping autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people for collaboration for life. A NeurodiVenture is an inclusive non-hierarchical organisation operated by neurodivergent people that provides a safe and nurturing environment for divergent thinking, creativity, exploration, and collaborative niche construction.

  • Datopian - is a small digital company affiliated with Art / Earth / Tech. The culture section of their handbook is particularly distinctive.

  • CPI Playbook (Center For Public Impact). CPI is a public sector thinktank developing their own model of self-management. Found this resource via OpenTeams

  • Round Sky Solutions – a worker cooperative offering a framework for iterative and meaningful collaborative governance, “Collab”. Find step by step resources in the Collab Instructional E-book.

  • Hypha a Worker Co-operative rooted in Tkaronto (Toronto), Canada and who “help organizations and communities redesign their relationships with digital technology” have published their Handbook.

  • dOrg - a development collective that builds blockchain software for clients and cooperatively manages its own finances using blockchain software. Handbook

  • We Are Open coop - a member-owned consulting company in the UK

  • Everything We Know About Remote Work by Buffer. See also their transparency stuff.

Temporary (e.g. campaigns, events)

Generalised lessons: toolkits, books, etc

More business like

More community like


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