Friday, 25 March 2011


Good governance in a third sector body is a real driver for change and progress. Bad governance is fatal. And core to the task is the CEO - Chair relationship.

Yesterday I had a day of it! In the morning I had the ACEVO board of trustees meeting under the admirable direction of my Chair Lesley-Anne Alexander; who drives the agenda forward in a charming but efficient manner. We aim to finish in 2 hours and on the dot of 12.30 she draws the meeting to a close.

Then in the evening I Chair a meeting of the non exec directors of the Social Investment Business. We too have a 2 hour meeting but I fail to end at 7pm- I'm 5 minutes over.

But it has led me to reflect on what makes a good meeting of trustees- directors. Perhaps key to it is a clear understanding of the distinct roles of the non exec and the exec. The non exec is there to provide scrutiny of how the organisation is running. But not to run it. And the non exec is there to help lead strategy development and direction but the executive , having drawn up and proposed ideas then implements.

And it is the job of the Chair and CEO to ensure the boundaries are kept. You cannot have non execs substituting their judgment on finances over the FD and CEO but the role of the non exec is to make a judgment that the budget presented and then monitored is sufficient for the purpose and , crucially, the business is on course and not heading for the knackers yard.

For me its been incredibly useful to perform both roles. As a Chair you get a different understanding of the pressures on a CEO. My SIB chief is taking up a third sector Chair role and I'm sure that will be a great advantage to him and us. Amusingly his CEO is an ACEVO member!

And one of my SIB non exec directors is the Chair of my Chair. There is a lot of this interchange in our sector and I suspect many ACEVO CEOs also chair another organisation.

This helps underline a better understanding of the distinct- if at times overlapping roles of the CEO and Chair. At their best they form the linchpin for driving an organisation forward. If dysfunctional they can bring ruin.

That is why at the core of the ACEVO offering is support on this relationship and development opportunities to provide advice and help.


Unknown said...

I could not agree more that governance is one of the most important things a charity needs for success.

When there is no governance, a charity can become a farce, and dishonest. It can start to abuse its workers, and embezzle funds.

In America, for example, there are 1.6 million charities, most of whom have budgets of under $50,000, and most of whom have very little oversight.

when I worked at a charity with a $900,000 budget, there was still very little oversight, and this ended badly for the charity.

There are benefits to being a chair before you're the CEO or Executive director, but an important distinction to consider is NOT to be the chair of the same charity right before you're the executive director, because the people on the board will most likely be your friends, and they won't be able to offer oversight that the charity really needs. They'll be biased towards you, instead of trying to do what's best for the charity.

What do you think? Have you ever seen a charity that has had a Chair become interim and then CEO without problems?



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