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Supporting Governance in your organisation
Support Staff
Provide Support on Governance to other orgs

Supporting governance in your organisation

Trustees take ultimate responsibility for the governance of their organisations; however governance is not a role for trustees alone. It is also about how trustees work with chief executives and staff (where appointed), volunteers, service users, members and other stakeholders to ensure their organisation is effectively and properly run and meets the needs for which it was set up.

You probably work with trustees on governance issues if you are:

  • Chief officer or equivalent
  • Support staff in the organisation

Chief executive officer or equivalent role

The roles of the chief executive (CEO) and members of the trustee board are interdependent. Ideally, they should build and maintain an effective and harmonious relationship. Most organisations' governing documents however do not set out the role of the CEO in governance.

The CEO depends on the trustees

The chief executive is dependent on the board for authority to function and manage the organisation. A chief executive should not view the board merely as a legal requirement. S/he should value capture the collective wisdom the board can offer as the organisation sets directions and works through challenges.

The trustees depend on the CEO

Boards in turn depend on their chief executive, to exercise leadership by building a successful team of staff and volunteers, and to help board members use their time efficiently. Boards depend on chief executives for information about day-to-day operations. Although boards may gather information from sources other than staff, chief executives are a primary source of knowledge that board members need to fulfill their responsibilities.

But, just as individual trustees run the risk of micromanaging, CEOs can be guilty of not helping engage board members in the oversight and governance of an organisation.

Prioritising governance improvement is a tall order for many but as a sector we are reliant on public trust and confidence, and we must commit to establishing strong governance processes and systems expected by society at large.

Are you keen to revamp your organisation's governance but struggling to find the time to make this happen? Are you a new CEO who has inherited governance which could be better? If so, there are many different resources and services now available to help you in your task to focus and support your board on their role and tighten their performance.

Support staff in the organistion

Some organisations, particularly those with a greater number of paid staff, may delegate the role of supporting trustees to a staff member, for example in a Company Limited by Guarantee the Company Secretary may service the trustees. Your role may include:

  • Producing and maintaining Board systems and papers, including minutes, agendas, induction packs, regulatory reports and returns etc.
  • Arranging Board events, including meetings, stakeholder sessions and awaydays.
  • Providing or organising Board training and development opportunities.
  • Processing Board expense claims.

Any of these roles contributes to the effective governance of the organisation and can help trustees carry out their tasks more efficiently. For practical guidance on supporting trustees in your organisation, you may wish use some of the Hub resources or find useful information at:

  • NCVO's website is an extensive online resource for the UK voluntary and community sector. You can quickly find resources on a whole range of governance matters if you type their title into the search box on the website.
  • A CD-ROM for trustees and those supporting them. Produced by Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations in partnership with NCVO and Lloyds TSB Foundation, it includes information, checklists, self-assessments, examples of best practice and audio clips. See
  • Just about Managing: Effective Management for Voluntary Organisations and Community Groups, by Sandy Adirondack, 3rd Edition. Published by London Voluntary Service Council
  • The Institute for Chartered Secretaries and Administrators provides guidance notes on best practice, e.g. a role description for a Company Secretary

Providing support on governance to other organisations

External adviser

As a consultant, trainer or development worker - or something similar - your job involves giving hands-on support to trustees or to voluntary and community organisations on governance. There is a wide range of people providing support in this way, both in generalist and specialist roles, and the Hub aims to support those working on governance in any of the following ways:

  • Infrastructure organisation or national association such as a Council for Voluntary Service, Rural Community Council, Social Enterprise Development Agency, national organisation supporting local groups, specialist infrastucture or umbrella organisation or local and sub-regional VCS training/learning consortia.
  • Professional law firm specialising in charity law and governance and pro-bono initiatives
  • Professional accountancy firm specialising in charity finance and investment
  • "University/college who trains VCS staff managers and advisers; also carrying out research and developing policy
  • Independent trainer and consultant - sole traders and small and medium companies
  • Local authority, PCT or Government Department that commissions services from the VCS
What's here for you?

The Governance Hub can help you access the resources and develop your skills in:

  • Raising awareness in VCOs of good practice in governance and the impact on organisational effectiveness
  • Helping VCOs to assess and improve their governance performance, identifying appropriate tools to assist them and providing support through one-to-one work, training, presentations and other means
  • Signposting VCOs to specialised and in-depth support and resources when necessary.
What you said you needed

An extensive consultation was undertaken with governance advisers in early 2006, the summary of which can be downloaded here. From this a support programme is being developed, the key features of which include:

  • A training programme for governance advisers
  • Peer learning activities
  • Online network
  • Tools for group work
  • An advisers' quarterly digest
  • Pilot project: boundaries of giving advice on governance to VCOs across the public, private and voluntary sectors
Training programme

The spring programme of training events covered giving advice on the legal issues of governance and how to work creatively with groups. A workshop was held on using the Code and National Occupational Standards for Trustees.

The autumn programme includes 8 training days for advisers on how to introduce various themes of governance improvement to VCOs.  This training is being delivered in partnership with the SKiLD project - Skills and Knowledge for Local Development; a project being delivered by NACVS on behalf of the UK Workforce Hub. Download the programme here.More generic advisers' training will be provided by the SKiLD project, on:

  • Coaching skills
  • Adult learning: methodologies and approach
  • Techniques to work with diverse groups
  • Working with BME groups
  • Dealing with difficult situations and challenges

Other Hubs are also running training courses for advisers.

Peer learning opportunities

Across the country there are many networks of advisers, who meet (for real or virtually) to share learning and good practice around working with local groups. These networks provide a unique opportunity for peer learning and support, where advisers can discuss issues, solve problems, build understanding and gain confidence, in a safe and encouraging environment.

Here's an example
The Second-Tier Advisers' Network (STAN) in London is an exciting peer-learning network for advisors working for second-tier organisations in London. Through improving skills and building on the knowledge and capacity of over 200 member advisors, STAN seeks to improve the quality of support to voluntary and community groups. STAN combines a flexible learning environment, which allows for networking for over two hundred members, with a learning programme which offers members the space to share skills, knowledge and experience.

The Hub is supporting advisers' networks to help them develop, expand and provide new services to more individual workers. Get in touch, if you are interested in:

  • Finding out how the Hub can support your network
  • Pilotting a new network in your area
  • Taking part in our new community of practice for advanced advisers, to examine methodologies and techniques for working with groups on governance. This group will be asked to consider wider issues around the learning needs of advisers, and discuss ideas and structures for providing more formal support and training to advisers.
Online network

Sign up here to the online advisors network, where you can access specific resoures and support tailored to suit your needs. You are invited to discuss your experiences of advising on governance matters and post your questions on our resources.

Tools for you to use with groups
  • Code Toolkit
  • National Occupational Standards for Trustees Toolkit
  • Trustee Recruitment Toolkit
  • 21st Century Board

More to come soon including:

  • How to get a vision, mission and values
  • Bite-sized governance for groups
  • Case studies to show how to get to good governance from here
  • Academic theories of governance
  • Induction materials for governance advisers
  • Advice on professional indemnity issues
  • Tools to supporting diverse groups, including rural, BME, young people and disability organisations.
An advisers' quarterly digest

We are all challenged by information overload and there is a wealth of governance related resources available. Some new advisers may ask where to begin? Others may struggle to keep on top on new developments and dimensions. The Hub's quarterly digest catalogues, disentangles and prioritises information for advisers on governance issues. By signing up you will be kept abreast of the latest governance thinking and know where to find key resources, materials and tools to help you deliver the most up to date advice and support to the groups you work with.

This new briefing will be launched during the summer - don't miss it!

Pilot project on giving advice to VCOs

As we know, many agencies are involved in giving advice on governance. The Hub will later this year commission some action research to explore who gives advice on what and to what level. Anecdotally we know advice varies greatly depending on who gives it, in terms of the quality of the advice and the depth an issue is explored and commented on. If each type of adviser better understood others' roles, remits and boundaries, the overall advice service would be improved.

The Hub research will:

  • Explore the governance advice given by a range of advisers in three localities
  • Identify common themes and issues
  • Report on trends, learning and recommendations.
Advisors - key resources:
National Occupational Standards for Trustees and Management Committee Members
The National Occupational Standards for Trustees and Management Committee Members (NOS) complement the Code of...

Trustee Recruitment Toolkit
The Trustee Recruitment Toolkit sets out good practice for seeking the best people to govern a community or voluntary...

21st Century Board
The Governance Hub's vision of a 21st Century Board lays out some of the different aspects for improving governance...

Good Governance: A Code for the Voluntary and Community Sector
The code is intended to help and support board members in the important and rewarding work that they carry out. It...

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