September 12, 2019

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Posted in Best Practice, Governance, Organisation Development, Organisation responsibilities tagged , , , at 2:26 am by Sue Hine

 

When the underground voices surface, when the words start adding up and the themes become clear, and when there is a crescendo of concern – we are way behind taking notice.

The voices have been around for years: there are board members and trustees of not-for-profit organisations that are just not performing as best they could.

We are talking about governance, all those important legal rules set to ensure public confidence in what we are doing, and in conforming to the regulations for reporting to government and Charities Services. They keep pressing on us, loading up our anxieties, when we would sooner be attending to matters of our mission.

Well – many of us started as the three-or-four person committee with a good idea. We weren’t registered as a charity, we were not an incorporated society. We just wanted to get moving with our big idea.

Which grew into bigger things, which took up more of our time, which needed some proper funding and maybe a paid manager. So we formalise, become one of the 27,000+ organisations registered as a charity. And fall into line with everything that goes with that. Not our cup of tea at all, but you have to do it.

And then we discover:

  • We don’t really understand our role in strategic development, and what we should be doing to push the organisation’s mission.
  • We really need a chairperson who knows how to run meetings efficiently, and a proper secretary for taking minutes, and a treasurer who knows about spreadsheets and basic accounting.
  • And recruiting people from the business sector doesn’t always work out in our favour.
  • Some board members seem to be there just to add something noble to their CV.
  • They don’t really understand what volunteering is about and why it is important for our organisation. Nobody is sticking up for volunteers – forgetting that Board members and Trustees are also volunteers.
  • The board needs to move into the next generation of organisation development, instead of being ruled by the people who can’t move with the times.

Enough. More than enough!

It’s not hard to find solutions. There is information galore available to introduce board members and trustees to models of best practice.

The starting place has to be Community Net and the raft of easy-to-read, accessible topics, from the fundamentals of developing governance capability to running meetings and working out policies and procedures. And don’t overlook the Qualities of an effective charity to illustrate what makes your organisation work well.

But maybe what you really want is to check out your organisation’s current performance, its strengths and weaknesses against the accepted benchmarks. That’s where NZ Navigator Trust can set you straight.

Want to know more about volunteering best practice? Go to Volunteering New Zealand’s self-assessment tool InvolveMe. This will get you thinking, and into action

Or if it is legal stuff you need to check out, your local Community Law office should be able to help.

All this looks like extra work and responsibilities, and maybe you need some outside help. The experts are out there – consultants with experience to guide you on your way. Yes, at a cost, but a price that has to be worth it in the end, for the organisation and for service delivery and what all that stands for.

Non-profit organisations may not have shareholders breathing down their necks for cash dividends, but they do have a constituency and responsibilities to their communities to deliver the goods promised in their mission. Let’s make sure we can live up to their expectations.

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And if this info is not enough, try this report: https://www.centreforsocialimpact.org.nz/media/1507/what-is-the-future-for-ngo-governance.pdf