Charities, companies limited by guarantee, community interest companies and social enterprises have a governing body, the Board that takes ultimate responsibility for the strategic direction, services, products and compliance to legislation. The Board may also be known as the management committee, council, executive committee, board of trustees, board of governors or other similar terms. The name of the governing body is usually defined in the governing document.
To govern means to lead long term direction, further the objects or purposes as set out in the governing document, ensure that the organisation is effectively and properly run with legal and other obligations met, and be accountable to those with an interest or a stake in the charity.
Most of the board’s work takes place at board meetings where members or trustees act collectively. Boards often focus on big issues at meetings, making key decisions, monitor activities and delegate operational duties to staff, volunteers, sub-committees or individual members / trustees.
Some smaller organisations experience board members / trustees involved in day to day issues as well as managing governance issues. This can work well provided the individuals are able to distinguish between when they are working on day to day issues and when they are working on governance issues, to help ensure the board is carrying out its overall responsibilities.
Boards govern effectively by:
- Focusing on their governance responsibilities
- Setting direction and strategy
- Ensuring the organisation is effective, responsible and legal
- Safeguard finances, resources, property, team members and the public
- Being accountable to funders and stakeholder
- Being clear about the responsibilities of the staff, volunteers and board members
- Being clear about who works on behalf of the charity to carry out its work – staff, volunteers and, in smaller charities, individual trustees – and maintain good relationships with them
- Ensuring the board itself operates effectively