Voluntary Action Camden

Guide to governance

For a voluntary organisation, good governance is about creating and following rules and processes to make sure the organisation is well run. Good governance is achieved by having roles and policies in place that result in accountability throughout the organisation.

In this guide we explain the governance framework for voluntary organisations, including how to write policies and procedures, and a community group constitution.

How we support you with governance

For new and inexperienced Camden organisations, implementing a framework for governance requires input from an experienced voluntary sector specialist. We support new organisations to create robust governance documents that cover all functions of the organisation, and advise on recruiting and inducting a board of trustees who can oversee the process of governance.

For established organisations already providing services in the community, we help to address a number of governance issues. Here are a few issues that we help with:

  • Identifying skills gaps on the board of trustees
  • Recruiting and training new trustees
  • Creating policies and procedures
  • Communicating policy within the organisation so that these become embedded into the work culture

Read an introduction to governance here.

If you feel your organisation needs some help getting the governance right, either get in touch for a conversation or fill in our form to request support from us.

Governance framework: how it works

In any voluntary organisation, a governance framework is underpinned by your constitution (a governing document) which sets out the organisation’s mission, and a set of policies and procedures for how roles and responsibilities should be carried out within the organisation. The framework facilitates the process for distributing power and responsibility throughout the organisation, ensuring transparency and accountability are upheld.

Writing your constitution

Even if your organisation is just a small group, a written constitution will help you to communicate the aims and purposes of the group to all volunteers, service users and stakeholders involved.

Your constitution should set out in the clearest possible terms the legal principles of your organisation, i.e., what your organisation will do and what it won’t do.

Essentially, the constitution states to all participants how the organisation is governed. It should contain all the key, fixed information that won’t change, such as:

  • the organisation’s name
  • the organisation’s aims
  • the membership model
  • the organisation’s ethical pledges, to diversity and equality, for example
  • the rules and procedures for financial conduct and committee meetings.

It should also set out the rules and procedures for changing any of these fixtures of the organisation.

We recommend these practical guides for drafting a constitution, created especially for voluntary organisations and community groups:

When planning your constitution, a number of in-depth considerations need to be made. Firstly, you need to have your legal structure in place which largely informs what your organisation can and can’t do. We also advise seeking pro bono legal advice from firms with charity expertise, if possible.

Get in touch with our team to find out how we can support you to plan and draft a constitution.

Governance roles and responsibilities

Board of trustees

An appointed group of people who each bring their own area of expertise to the organisation. The board ensures the organisation’s activities and direction is always in line with the mission. They provide oversight of the organisation’s activities and functions, ensuring these are carried out legally and transparently. They also ensure the regulatory obligations are met on time, such as administrative paperwork, financial accounts, and audits and annual reports.

The board is the organisation’s official governing body. By law, trustees are accountable for any misconduct or failure of the organisation to comply with legal regulations. Although they are custodians of governance, they are not solely responsible for mismanagement when it does occur.

In some instances, misconduct is carried out at the board level. Fraud charges have previously been brought against trustees and chairs who were found to have defrauded organisations. 

Misconduct can happen at all levels of the organisation. For this reason, the responsibility for good governance, e.g., conducting and reporting financial audits, should not be left solely to the board of trustees or a single employee, but should be spread out and managed transparently throughout the organisation.

Board responsibilities include:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Appointing an executive director
  • Approving budgets and spending
  • Assessing impact and performance
  • Identifying problems and solutions

Read more on the legal responsibilities of trustees.

Read more about how boards govern.

The role of the executive director

Appointed by the board to oversee the smooth management of the organisation. The executive director is given powers to delegate responsibilities to employees presiding over major functions such as employment and HR, service and project delivery, fundraising and business development, for example. The responsibility for day-to-day operations falls on their shoulders. They work closely with the board of trustees to develop and implement the strategies, mission, values and vision of the organisation.

If you are starting an organisation or group, we can help you understand governance issues. This step is especially recommended if you aim to register your group as a charity.

Upcoming governance training

If you don’t see any suitable training here, contact us so we can connect you to one of our strategic partners who can provide you with the necessary support.

Kevin

If you’d like help with governance for your organisation or group then please contact Kevin Nunan knunan@vac.org.uk.

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