Evolving Chair: Leading from the Top
25 February 2016 at 9:22 am
Both board and management executives in the Not for Profit sector have a fundamental role to play in creating transparent and accountable governance structures, according to the National President and Board Chair of the Australian Council for Social Services, Tony Reidy in this month’s Evolving Chair.
In this month’s Evolving Chair, Reidy talks about the role of the ACOSS Board.
What is your organisation and what is the board structure?
The Australian Council of Social Service is the nation’s peak body of the community services and welfare sector and the national voice for the needs of people affected by poverty and inequality. The vision of ACOSS is a fair, inclusive and sustainable Australia where all individuals and communities can participate in and benefit from social and economic life.
The Board of ACOSS is comprised of representatives appointed by each of the state and territory Councils of Social Service, elected representatives from ACOSS’s national member organisations, and two representatives elected from the organisation’s special assembly members.
What attracts you to a Not for Profit board?
I have a passionate commitment to and belief in the work of ACOSS, and to contributing to its goals to improve civil society in Australia.
I’ve also been involved in the Not for Profit/community sector all my adult life, and have gained a significant depth of experience in the governance of the NFP sector; experience which I hope to bring to my role in leading the ACOSS Board.
What are your board’s current priorities/goals?
The core purpose of ACOSS is to reduce poverty and inequality, and our current strategic planning goals include a particular focus on advocating for a fair and efficient tax system to secure an adequate sustainable revenue base for essential community services, fair individual incomes and social protections, and housing affordability for all Australians.
ACOSS is also working to promote effective democratic processes in our country, including a vibrant independent civil society.
Does your board believe collaboration between organisations within your area is important? Why?
The community and welfare sector in Australia is significantly under resourced, with collaboration between organisations, including those involved in advocacy for social change, a key element of achieving the best possible outcomes for people affected by poverty and disadvantage.
ACOSS strongly promotes and facilitates collaboration within the sector and the broader NFP community, especially between the state and territory Councils of Social Service.
Do you have any advice around governance?
Strong, effective governance at all levels of the NFP sector is crucial to its sustainability, and its capacity to deliver services and achieve improvements in social indicators.
At both board and management level, recognition of the fundamental role played by experienced, well trained personnel in appropriately structured and openly accountable governance structures is key to the promotion of the NFP sector as a professional partner in the delivery of community services.
NFP organisations must ensure that even in times of budget constraint they continue to provide for processes that ensure board and management effectiveness and renewal.
Do you have any advice around risk management?
A key part of enhancing the sustainability and efficacy of NFP organisations in Australia in recent years has been a marked improvement in the understanding by organisations of the risks inherent in their business models and service delivery.
Organisations large and small must ensure that they have a clear risk profile, and that risks are continuously documented, prioritised and understood by boards and staff alike. Risk policies need to have mitigation strategies in place in order to deal with those matters that present challenges or potential dangers to financial stability, organisational capacity, employee or client welfare, and community reputation.
Do you have any advice on board members raising money?
While NFP boards in Australia have not developed along the lines of the American model, where individuals are often invited onto boards because of their capacity to generate income for the organisation, the role of NFP board members in using their spheres of influence to raise funds is an important one.
Almost every NFP board that is reliant on government funding sets a goal to increase its revenue from non-government sources, and there is a part to be played in this process by boards.
Working closely with their NFP’s operational staff, board members can ensure that they have a clear, workable policy in place regarding donations, and that part of that policy can be an “audit” of the board members’ connections and potential for tapping sources of revenue.
Do you have any advice around the Board’s relationship with the Chief Executive Officer?
The relationship between board and CEO underpins the ongoing success of an organisation, and it is vital that this relationship is clear, documented and appropriate.
The board must have policy in place for this area of governance, with key areas to include the existence and maintenance of documented employment arrangements, provision for performance monitoring and (when appropriate) reward, and a workable, consistently up-to-date delegations policy.
If it is the board’s arrangement to delegate matters in the CEO relationship to the chair of the board, this must be well documented and monitored so that the board’s expectations and limitations are clear.
The fundamental duty for the board in recruiting, appointing and supervising the CEO must also be complemented by policies and procedures that monitor the health and wellbeing of the key officer leading their organisation.