How much time do you spend at board meetings questioning ‘the what’ and ‘the why’ of past actions and decisions? Maybe too much time? Is meeting fatigue is beginning to set in?
Effective board meetings should be less about reporting on what the organisation has done and more about strategic forward planning, and that’s why it’s vital to understand the difference between governance and management. For whilst trustees should always be informed and up to date about their organisation’s operations, they should not get bogged down in day to day detail, that’s the job of your staff.
Instead, as a trustees you’re on the board to steer and govern your organisation. Discussions at meetings shouldn’t be retrospective, and if you’re spending most of your time looking at why you did what you did, you’re not doing your job properly. Your job as a trustee is to move the organisation forward and focus on future strategy.
the board should be steering the direction of any strategic plan, rather than just approving a final draft
So at every board meeting you should be able to link back to your organisational aims and objectives, and your mission statement, and be able to answer the following questions:
- Do we provide value for money?
- Are we making an impact and focussing on our beneficiaries?
- Are our staff and volunteers effectively supported?
- Is this board functioning effectively?
- What is our USP?
That’s a useful checklist to keep trustees focussed on their roles and responsibilities. It’s in your board meetings where good governance can be practised, and it’s important to think about trustees’ involvement in strategic discussions and decisions. The board should be steering the direction of any strategic plan, rather than just approving a final draft. You’re there to challenge and make high quality decisions. Be proactive, rather than reactive. To do that you need to engage and participate.
If you’d like to know more about how to get your Board to be more strategic, then we’ve got an exciting new programme of governance training planned with the CASS Centre for Charity Effectiveness the leading non-profit and philanthropy centre in the UK.
SCVO will be running six Building Better Governance seminars from September to November 2016. Aimed at chairs, trustees, chief executives and senior management who have a governance function within their organisation, this programme will be the first of its kind in Scotland.