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NGO Governance: The Need for Board of Directors/Trustees

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Establishing and managing a successful organization, nonprofit or social enterprise requires a good foundational board structure with clear responsibilities. This blog post is next in our series of breaking down some of the language utilized in our Modules so you can have a clear understanding of the importance of board of directors/trustees, the board?s responsibilities, policies, accountability, and management strategies.

What and Who are the Board of Directors of NGOs’

The Board of Directors of non governmental organizations (NGOs) are a consortium of people who have been selected to ensure an organization stays aligned with the mission and to proffer advice to management. In most nonprofits, the board of directors are selected based on their involvement and impact in the communities’ served, expertise in key subject areas, and potential network opportunities to further maximise the organization’s impact.

The Board’s Responsibilities

The role of an NGO board is to ensure consistent alignment with mission and vision goals, review the organization?s performance periodically to ensure viability and sustainability, and support the Chief Executive Officer and the rest of senior management in networking, advising, and any other capacity as needed. The board also put on programs and activities that promote the mission, and at times appoint the CEO/Managing Director when needed.

So, not all board members join the board with all of the skills necessary to effectively discharge their duties. Thus, it is essential to have recurrent training that keeps the board members equipped with updated knowledge and information. Training can include financial literacy (budgeting), new strategic plans (program development), and ways to communicate across different parts of the organization.

Policies and Policing the Board

While defining and creating responsibilities for board members, you should also ensure good governance policies are created which serves as guidelines for the organization’s standard of practice, and accountability for board members behavior and performance. These policies should be made available to all staff and management, written down with members signature and pledge properly documented. The policies should also explicitly outline consequences for each infraction.

A few recommendations for topics on governance policies’ are; human resources, sexual harassment, anti-corruption, procurement of goods and services, vendor contract management, and media enagement amongst others. If your NGO involves children, generating child protection policies such as mandatory reporter status for your board members creates accountability for the work being done. A mandatory reporter is someone who must report when they suspect that child abuse and/or neglect is occurring.

Board Performance

After developing board responsibilities and policies for your organization, you have to measure its performance periodically to improve impact and efficiency. Similar to how you would do performance review over staff, you can measure current outcome statistics and cost-effectiveness to the past. Comparing your organization?s performance to other organizations that are working in similar contexts can assist in better-understanding of ways to adjust as well as illustrate transparency and self-regulation to impress donors, funders, employees, clients, and volunteers.

Make sure to check out our Module 2dedicated to Governance that goes further in-depth on how to create and implement board policies and responsibilities into your NGO.

By Ola Adebayo & Oluwabukola Apata – GIL Team Members