This week, the 6 to 10 November, is Trustees’ Week, where organisations up and down the UK celebrate the achievements and contributions of trustees within all kinds of not-for-profits. There are almost one million trustees within the UK, and we know that many of CGIUKI’s members count among them, either working or volunteering in governance and board roles in the charity, education and sport sectors. We want to extend a big thank you for all your efforts!
This year, the theme for Trustees’ Week is “Many Voices. Working Together. With purpose.” This encapsulates the sheer variety of types and sizes of organisations which trustees steer, and the wealth of experience and knowledge that they bring to their roles. In a year marked by significant difficulties for many in the not-for-profit sectors, it is a welcome invitation to step back and reflect on the positive impact that their work has.
We know that governance has a huge role to play in the success of organisations across all sectors. As the framework by which organisations are directed, effective governance allows for better decision-making. Governance ensures that organisations are doing the right thing and doing it in the right way, which is crucial when operating in not-for-profit sectors. That is why we have picked out our top five tips for governance success.
CGIUKI’s Top 5 Tips for governance success in your not-for-profit:
1. Develop your vision and values
Boards of trustees and the governance teams that support them are responsible for developing and promoting a vision for their organisation. For charities, this must mirror their charitable objectives. This vision should also cascade into organisational values and culture. Trustees need to be able to clearly articulate their organisation’s values, and more importantly, need to demonstrate and embody them.
2. Consider the composition of your board
Who makes up your board? There is barely a week that goes by without another report exposing the lack of diversity within not-for-profit boards. Boards of trustees should reflect their organisation’s purpose and values – and could choose to go further and reflect the communities that their organisation serves. Diversity goes beyond just the protected characteristics under the Equality Act, such as gender, ethnicity, disability, religion and sexuality. It also encompasses socio-economic background, neurodivergence, physical and mental health and caring responsibilities, amongst many others. Fundamentally, a more diverse board has a wider variety of skills, knowledge and experience to draw upon, and therefore will be more fully equipped to make informed decisions.
3. Make difficult decisions with care
It has been a tricky year for many of those across the charity, sport and education sectors, who are facing funding squeezes, higher demand for services, and intensified scrutiny from regulators, the media and government. In contexts such as these, it is more important than ever for organisations to make sound decisions, and to document their decision-making process carefully and thoroughly. Governance professionals play a crucial role in ensuring that meeting agendas allow sufficient time for key decisions to be discussed, and that meetings minutes serve as an accurate record of how a decision was reached.
4. Engage with your stakeholders
Not-for-profits do not exist in a vacuum. It is essential that trustees seek out and are attuned to the views of internal and external stakeholders, to avoid groupthink and to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their organisation. The governance professional can help to facilitate this process. The annual report is a key opportunity to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders. Maintaining a strong and open dialogue with stakeholders allows an organisation to build trust and credibility.
5. Develop a positive boardroom dynamic
Trustees are expected to act with integrity, and to demonstrate independence, rigour, sound judgement and honesty. These characteristics are not only important to the functioning of the board, but also as a model to the rest of the organisation. Attitudes such as complacency or inflexibility can be a barrier to decision-making in the boardroom. A productive boardroom dynamic is one where trustees are open to new voices and ideas, able to come to mutual decisions, and embed strategic direction into their thinking.
CGIUKI has a wealth of resources for developing effective governance in organisations of all types and sizes. Keep an eye on our LinkedIn page throughout Trustees Week for more guidance, support and information about the ways that CGIUKI supports good governance in the charity, education and sports sectors.
If you want to read more about how to maximise the effectiveness of your board of trustees, you can read our updated guidance note.