Good governance is the cornerstone of a successful, thriving community organisation. There are many different styles and structures that organisations can consider when setting up or as they expand. Sometimes, systems and structures may develop in an organic way, particularly when groups are small and members are voluntary. In the beginning, it can be quite common for staff to be involved across the whole organisation, from leadership positions to running or facilitating activities or services. Over time, however, particularly when an organisation wants to apply for public funding or needs to formally employ staff, the development of a clear strategy, as well as systems and processes to ensure the smooth running of the organisation, will become critical. Organisations that are accountable to stakeholders (i.e. funders or client groups) are likely to find that it is useful to have some separation between the leadership (governance) and the operational (management) structures within the organisation.
CommunityNet Aotearoa has a practical guide to help organisation work through some of the different governance structures that may be considered. The guide covers things like
- The difference between governance and management responsibilities
- The roles of office holders – treasure, secretary, chairperson
- Te Tiriti governance considerations
- Governing body recruitment, retention, orientation, succession planning and evaluation.
Difference between governance and management
A clear division between governance and management is useful for many reasons, but for smaller community organisations it can be a challenge to separate issue of strategic governance from day-to-day management, especially for smaller organisation. On the other hand, there are benefits to a strong and healthy relationship between governance and management positions.
Poor governance carries risks. Financial and legal problems can arise for directors and trustees, which will invariably have an impact on the ability for the organisation to achieve its goals and could ultimately threaten the whole kaupapa. The role of leadership is often to ensure that the organisation is viable and thrives while protecting its assets and making sure funds and resources are used effectively and appropriately. The CommunityNet guide covers some of the key characteristics of an effectively functioning governing body, including a good mix of skills, an effective chairperson (or dual chairs), committees for specialist tasks, well-managed meetings, dynamics that allow for free expression and good self-evaluation.