Introduction to governance

Created: July 25, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Updated: August 28, 2018 | By Community Resource Kit

Governance is about how an organisation is run. It covers all the strategies, systems, processes and controls that enable a group to decide what it will do and to make sure it happens e.g. where the organisation is now, where it is going and what is needed to get it there.

Good governance is crucial for a community organisation because it enables the group to steer towards its goals (the word itself comes from the Latin gubernare - to steer, direct, guide, govern) while making sure it is managed on day-to-day basis keeping its objectives in mind.

Non profit governance has a dual focus: achieving the organisation's social mission and ensuring that the organisation is viable.

When community groups are small and members work on a voluntary basis, it's common for the same people to be involved in both leading and running the group. However, as an organisation grows, it might start to look at getting public funding or employing people. When this happens, the group will become accountable to certain stakeholders, e.g. funders, and it is important to have some separation between the leadership (governance) and the operational (or management) roles in the group.

Just as each community group is different, how it is governed will vary from group to group. There is no one perfect organisational solution. A group's governing body (its board or committee) should design an approach to governance that suits the organisation while being aware that there are some core roles and functions of governance that are common to all community organisations.

This governance section looks at these core roles and functions, and also covers:

  • the difference between governance and management responsibilities
  • the roles of office holders - treasurer, secretary, chairperson
  • the extra dimensions to Māori governance 
  • governing body recruitment, retention, orientation, succession planning and evaluation. 

Governance resources in the Community Resource Kit

This section on governance covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to Governance (you are here)
    • Introduction
    • Governance resources on CommunityNet Aotearoa
    • Words used
  • Governance and management
    • Effective governance
    • Difference between governance and management
    • Governing body/management relations
    • Extra dimensions to governing Māori organisations
  • Roles and functions of a governing group
    • Core roles
    • Core functions
    • Setting strategic direction and strategies
    • Stakeholder relations
    • Recruiting and evaluating the chief executive
    • Being accountable to stakeholders
    • Risk management
    • Policy development
  • Governing body officers
    • Who are they?
    • Powers, duties and liabilities
    • General powers and duties
    • General liabilities
    • Specific duties of a chairperson
    • Specific duties of a treasurer
    • Specific duties of a secretary
  • Managing governing body meetings
    • Focusing on important strategic matters
    • Agendas
    • Special agenda items
    • Information provided by the chief executive
    • Minutes
  • Governing body processes
    • Recruitment
    • Size
    • Process for appointment
    • Retention
      • Retention checklist
    • Induction
      • Induction checklist
    • Succession planning
      • Succession planning checklist
    • Self-evaluation
      • Self-evaluation checklist

 Words used

Throughout this section the term 'governing body' is used, which is meant to include:

  • a board - a formal structure such as a board of directors (in the case of a company)
  • a committee or management committee - an informal structure such as the committee members of a society
  • trustees in the case of a charitable trust.

The word member is also used occasionally to refer to the individuals that make up a governing body. 


Next page: Governance and management

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