Is Good Governance Enough or Should We Aim Higher?


Is Good Governance Enough or Should We Aim Higher?

If you Google ‘good governance’ you’ll be able to compile a list of useful principles, but is good governance more than just a checklist?

In this context ‘governance’ has to do with the proper and efficient running of charities or not-for-profit organisations in the pursuit of their objectives. Those at the helm of these organisations hold positions of power and trust. Their stakeholders and those they help, depend on them to do their job properly. Donations, grants and entrusted funds are expected to end up in the right place, and the time invested by volunteers should be considered time-well-spent.

Not-for-profits (NFP’s) are therefore bound by legal obligations to ensure they comply with a basic level of responsibility. Coupled with trustworthiness, reliability, honesty, diligence and varying degrees of knowledge, good governance is achieved.

But is this enough for your NFP? Are you happy to have an organisation that meets its objectives or would you like to exceed them? Do you want directors who fulfil their duties and obligations in the ordinary fashion, or do you want to make ‘extraordinary’ the new recruitment norm?

If I wanted an NFP that kept its head down, stayed out of trouble and just ticked all the boxes, I’d probably turn to a checklist to review my board. But if I want a governing body who breathes life into the organisation and enables it to flourish, these are three qualities I’d look for.

Are they dynamic?

A dynamic board is made up of innovative, creative and energetic people who are always looking for better ways to operate. They aren’t afraid to upset the apple cart if ‘the old way’ is no longer ‘the best way’. Most importantly, they’re not just teachable, or willing to learn, but crave knowledge and seek out opportunities to lead their organisation into the future.

Are they accountable?

This is something more than just being responsible. Responsibility can be ‘shirked’, but that’s not a part of the accountable board member. It encompasses a degree of ownership, personal investment and integrity. More than just ‘reliable’, it involves a true appreciation of the phrase, “The buck stops here.”

Are they responsive?

Responsiveness puts the vision and ideas of the dynamic board into action. It’s not only willing to initiate change but eager to. A responsive board won’t only seek feedback, but they’ll analyse the results and see what needs tweaking, replacing or scrapping entirely. Being responsive is about flexibility, adaptability and an understanding of the need to remain relevant.

A lot of charities and NFP’s struggle to maintain a full board of volunteers. Not only do they need to find people with the time, but also those with a healthy mix of skills to benefit the running of the organisation. So, I understand that it’s a bit tough to suggest the bar be lifted even higher. But society’s expectations aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago. With a growing number of charities to choose from people are less likely to accept them at face value.

Like any other industry, the NFP sector is competitive, and discerning consumers are looking for more than just organisations who purport to do good things. They value transparency, innovation and ethical practices and are quite capable of doing their own research before committing time or money. If we run organisations that rely on the participation of the community, then we need to meet those expectations.

Keep this in mind when you’re next recruiting, but don’t forget to work with the board you have. An inspirational speaker or creative training techniques might be all the kindling you need to take your board to a new level.

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