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

January 22, 2012

Good Governance, or Good Grief!

Posted in A Bigger Picture, Annual Review, Best Practice, Managers Matter, Recognition of Volunteering tagged , , , , , , at 4:11 am by Sue Hine

In the mode of New Year wishes there is just one best thing I want to happen in 2012: the application of good governance – and good executive management – in organisations that don’t.  At the end of this year I want to find committees, boards and executives have lifted their game and can demonstrate a better understanding of volunteering and of managing volunteers.

Is this too much to expect?

What I do not want to hear at the end of this year are more sorry stories of people hired to ‘manage volunteers’, only to be pulled and pushed into a whole lot of different roles and tasks that end up making the job untenable.

Not good to be all steamed up so early in the year.  Not good to be hearing another sad-sack story of a manager of volunteers who resigned from a situation that amounted to workplace bullying and abuse, and ultimately a constructive dismissal.

Not good to find my most viewed post of 2011 is once again about a bad volunteer experience. It is almost worse to be writing now about organisations which lack basic understanding of employment law, let alone understanding how to apply best practice in HR management.

OK – the community and voluntary sector is a large amorphous collective. There are organisations that could be called corporations for their size and their budgets and their scale of operations.  There are local, regional and national organisations delivering services under contract to government.  There are many more organisations existing as small entities serving local community interests and particular social, political or cultural goals.

It is important to remember that more than 90% of 97,000+ NFP organisations in NZ do not employ staff. On one hand this statistic illustrates the miracle of volunteering, the power of the collective, and the strength of Civil Society. On the other hand there is the potential misery of good intentions going awry, perhaps from ignorance of the resources that are available to set an organisation on the best practice track.

There are opportunities out there for training in Governance.  There are guidelines and information and training programmes available online, much of it for free. You can get the basics from OCVS, and a bit more detail at CommunityNet Aotearoa.  For a really comprehensive (and lengthy) document on the Nine Steps to Effective Governance go to SPARC.  Occasionally Volunteer Centres can offer a workshop on governance in association with Unitec’s Graduate Diploma in Not-for-Profit Management.

The best immediate advice comes from American educator Betty Stallings.  Her recommendations for 12 Key Actions of Volunteer Programme Champions are based on research undertaken with Chief Executives, and there are some powerful messages in this short document.

On the flip side what I do want to hear about is employees finding courage to stand up for their rights, to show organisations there are other ways of managing work conditions and programmes, and to doing better in meeting the organisation’s mission and values.  Even if they have to take their case to the Employment Court – an option, please note, not available to discouraged volunteers.

So to all people out there engaged with volunteers and in organisations providing community sector services through volunteers, take heed of the message expressed in this proverb:

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!