We’ve just finished some work with one of our members, the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS) on a Governance Support Package. It’s a tool-kit that offers support to trustees on governance, finances, people and legislation. We really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with another umbrella organisation and help the international development sector boost its capacity and skills.

“We’re giving NIDOS members access to free legal advice and discounts on our training courses”

NIDOS works to unite the international development sector to promote effectiveness and collectively influence the policy agenda. We learned that running an international organisation can present its own unique challenges in areas such as monitoring of funds and staff, risk assessment, international legislation, insurance and visas. Our guide not only covers these issues, it also has a wealth of information that can be applied to any third sector organisation, large or small.

Governing an organisation well relies on hard work and commitment, pretty much like any relationship of importance. Open communication and good team working with your board is essential, because if your trustees don’t work well together, there’s a real risk to your long term survival. Poor governance won’t just affect your monthly board meetings, it could lead to the failure of the whole organisation.

So, how to you make sure your governance is great?

Here’s three top tips to help make sure your board is the best it can be:

1. Great expectations
Board members should be clear about what’s expected of them. They should be sure about the time commitment involved in being a trustee and the overall mission and values of the organisation. They’re there to act only in the charity’s best interests, not primarily to improve their career prospects or enhance their social life (though this can be an added perk for individuals). Set high expectations, and make sure your board is fully prepared for every meeting, has read and understood all of the board papers, and is comfortable asking difficult and challenging questions.

2. Finders keepers
It’s crucial that you have the right people on your board. Do a skills audit and see where you have gaps that you can fill either through co-option or election. Think about future proofing for your organisation, and skills you may need down the line in IT or social media, or finance or HR. Remember that open recruitment will attract the most diverse candidates and will also act to promote your organisation more generally. Don’t just rely on word of mouth and personal contacts, or you may get more of the same.

3. All together now
Make sure your trustees understand their individual roles and responsibilities, have a comprehensive induction process, and have ongoing support, mentoring and regular training. Educate and engage them, and stress the importance of collective responsibility. Oversight of the finances is so important. It’s not just the job of the Treasurer; everyone is responsible for the numbers. Good accountability is vital. Make use of a Code of Conduct, Register of Interests, regular appraisals and fixed term appointments.

While a good governance tool-kit is essential for any board, we recognise that organisations will sometimes have more specific problems to deal with. So as part of our work with NIDOS, we’ve given access to our free legal advice service to NIDOS members and offered discount on SCVO training courses until December.

If you think you could benefit from some help with governance in your organisation, get in touch with the Information Service. We look forward to hearing from you!