Governing body processes
A governing body's success depends entirely on the people sitting around the table and how they contribute their skills and perspectives to discussion and debate. The right mix of people will ensure the governing body makes good decisions for the future of the organisation. A governing body needs to be made up of people who have the right experience and skills with their own vision of where the organisation is going and how it should get there. It shouldn't just be a collection of people who are friends of the staff and other members.
Finding, recruiting and retaining governing members can be a big challenge for many not-for-profit organisations. However, research shows that the more time you spend on recruiting a governing body member, the better that person is likely to perform.
Some tips for effective recruitment include:
- develop and implement a recruitment programme that includes a nomination, selection and orientation process
- always recruit in person and have a senior member of the existing governing body involved
- think about the skills the group needs and the groups of people who should be represented on the governing body
- always be on the lookout for potential members.
The size of the governing body depends on:
- the size of the organisation
- the number of people who can be expected to work effectively together
- the mix of skills needed (e.g. business and financial skills, specialist skills such as social welfare, knowledge of tikanga and whakapapa etc.) and
- the legal, constitutional and representation requirements.
Process for appointment
Who can be appointed as a governing board member and the process for how they are appointed differs for various organisational structures depending on the organisation's governing Act and constitution. Every group should clearly define these things when it creates its founding documents.
Once you have your governing body members in place, you must consider the following to make sure the organisation keeps these good people:
- clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of the members
- provide ongoing training and learning opportunities
- ensure meetings are pleasant, focused and constructive
- build trust, respect and communication, and
- have fun!
All new governing body members should receive a formal induction into their governance role and the organisation's work as a whole. This is so that new members can contribute to the governing body's work as soon as possible.
The induction for a governing body member can include:
- assigning new members to more experienced ones (mentors)
- staff presentations on the work of the organisation; meetings with the chairperson (for a governance familiarisation) and with the chief executive/co-ordinator (for an operational familiarisation)
- providing new members with a governing body manual. This manual may include:
- governing body policies and procedures
- members job descriptions and responsibilities
- the group's organisational plan, strategic plan and mission statement
- current membership details
- governing body meeting details (e.g. dates, times, venues, duties, expectations), and
- audited accounts for the last few years.
Each governing body should develop a succession plan for selecting and replacing elected and appointed governing body members and office holders.
Succession planning checklist
Succession planning can be as simple as:
- reviewing the governing body's performance and composition
- maintaining a needs matrix and a current profile for each governing body position. A needs matrix is where existing governing body members are invited to comment on the skills, experience and attributes they feel the governing body needs as a whole, and
- maintaining a list of prospective members.
It's good governance practice to regularly assess the governing body's performance. A review should be done at least yearly, and can be led by an outside consultant or managed internally by the governing body through a structured discussion. These evaluations are an opportunity to check that the governing body is fully on-track, and to see if there are opportunities for change that could give better results.
The performance of a governing body will always differ from group to group, but some basic questions a governing body should ask itself during a self-evaluation are:
- what is the state of relationships with stakeholders?
- how well is the strategic plan linking to the work within the organisation?
- do we agree on what things we should be doing and whether we are doing them well?
- did we allocate appropriate time to the right things throughout the year?
- are all legal requirements being met?
- are our staff and members satisfied?
- are our meetings well run and the information we receive sufficient?
- are our various committees working well and do they have the right relationship with the rest of the governing body?
- do the governing body members feel their skills are being used and their contribution valued?
- how is the chairperson performing in his/her role?
- do we have a good relationship with the chief executive?