Neighbourhood houses and Learn Locals may not be big profit-making entities, but by and large they are complex businesses, with a moderate to high level of risk associated with them.
I am noticing more and more - in my role as a Networker, and through other projects I'm working on - the centres that are thriving and most likely to be sustainable have a well-informed and engaged committee or board, and strong collaboration between the committee and the manager/coordinator. Centres where the committee is not engaged or informed, but are just a 'rubber stamp', are at much greater risk.
Being on the committee of a neighbourhood house or learning centre means people need to have a good understanding of their role as a committee member, as well as having some understanding of the 'business' of the centre.
The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) have developed the Good Governance Principles and Guidance for Not-for-Profit organisations
. They apply to any NFP, regardless of sector or size.
In each of the next ten newsletters, each principle will be summarised. The full Guide can be found here
1. Roles and Responsibilities
Committee members are most likely to be effective in their role if they are clear about their responsibilities, how the committee works, and the operations and finances of the organisation.
Many centres find it hard to get committee members; however, it is unwise to simply have people join the committee out of good will (or coercement) without them having some idea of what will be expected of them.
As well as the requirements under law (for example, the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012, OHS legislation), the organisation will have its own constitution or Model Rules that will inform committee members of their role.
No-one expects committee members to have the same detailed knowledge and understanding of the operations and finances of the organisation as the manager/coordinator. However, they should know enough to be able to govern effectively, for example oversee risk, oversee the financial sustainability, set strategic direction and manage the coordinator/manager.
Some questions for consideration:
- are the roles and responsibilities of the committee and the management clearly set out in the Model Rules/constitution?
- are committee members fully aware of their duties and what is expected of them?
- do new committee members receive an induction regarding the organisation, their role/responsibilities, and conflict of interest parameters (particularly important if a committee member is also a volunteer or staff member)
- does the committee have a charter and protocols that help define its role and set out particular types of decision
- does the charter cover how the chairperson and committee are expected to work with the manager/coordinator?
- are the chair and manager roles clearly defined?
- are there clear documents delegations of authority from the committee to the manager/coordinator?