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Getting the Most from Board Meetings

A successful organisation uses the time of its board and staff wisely. Keeping meetings focussed on outcomes is an important way to ensure time is not wasted. This requires careful planning and management before, during and after meetings. Given that the bulk of board work is done in meetings, it is vital that you get the most out of your limited time together. We have developed some tips for Chairs which will help maximise the effectiveness of board meetings.

Before the meeting, the chair should:

Weighing up good governance in non-profits

Whether we’re buying a new car, booking a holiday, or building a strong board, we tend to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, with varying degrees of formality.  In considering the cost of effective governance, we should also think long and hard about the potential costs of ineffective governance – a stressed Chief Executive, a chaotic staff team without clear direction and boundaries, a poor reputation among funders, not to mention the financial costs of fraud and inefficiency.  Poor governance by one organisation also risks damaging the reputation of the sector as a whole which, as we all kn

All I want for Christmas is good governance

Dear Santa

I’ve been awfully good all year long, and all I want for Christmas is the gift of great governance.

I’ve prepared for all my meetings in advance, read the reports and papers and accounts thoroughly, and have a 100% attendance record, despite that really heavy snow last January. I’ve played nicely with my board colleagues, and was always polite when I challenged the Chief Executive about the few targets we didn’t meet on time. I even think I deserve some extra credit for attending board development training, and keeping up-to-date with industry trends.

I hope you agree I’ve been as good as good can be. Here’s my Christmas list, and I really hope I get everything on it.

10 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Board

There is growing recognition of the importance of the role of the Board, both in driving performance and keeping the organisation safe and legal.  Boards are putting more effort into checking out potential new directors before bringing them into the boardroom.  Directors need to do their homework too, to ensure the board they join is the right one for them, and to minimise the personal risks.

About You

  1. Does the work of that board make your eyes light up?  Life is too short to do work that doesn’t excite you.  Whether your interest is making profit, making a difference, or inventing something new and wonderful, your Board work will be much more satisfying if it’s contributing to that goal.  When the going gets tough, it will be important that you are fully committed to getting through the tough patch and building new success with your Board colleagues.

Top 6 governance misconceptions that could be putting you at risk

The vast majority of board members with whom we work hold some common misconceptions about their role. These are our top six.

  1. I’m a director of a company limited by guarantee. I’m only liable for £1 if things go wrong.

This is one of the most common misconceptions about ‘limited by guarantee’ companies. The model articles of such a company state that “The liability of each member is limited to £1”, not that the liability of each director is limited. This means that if the directors make poor decisions, which then result in debts for the company, they may be liable for those debts, along with costs and fines. The best way to mitigate against this is to have good governance practices. All directors must be aware of the financial position of the organisation and ensure it does not trade while insolvent. Directors must be vigilant, and avoid any fraudulent activity. Failing to identify any problems can be considered as mismanagement.

10 easy ways to improve your board

We all want better boards, but we don’t always have the time, or the money, to invest in board improvement. This is why we’ve come up with our top 10 low cost / no cost ways of developing your board.

  1. Insist on 100% attendance.

The easiest way for all of your board members to know what’s going on, contribute to discussions, and make better decisions is for everyone to be in the room.

10 attributes of a great Chair


There are many attributes which combine to make a terrific Chair. Like all great leaders, it is easy to recognise an effective Chair when you see them, but pinning down what they have in common can be a bit more difficult. The following list highlights the top 10 attributes we think all great Chairs share.

Choosing the Chief

Board members are tasked with many responsibilities - determining strategy, monitoring performance, agreeing acceptable risks and ‘setting the tone’, to name but a few. Arguably the most important task for any board is recruiting the right CEO. The CEO is the leader of the staff team, the face of the organisation, and the interface between the board and staff. They are responsible for implementing the agreed strategy, and their success is the organisation’s success.

10 things my allotment has taught me about corporate governance

I love my allotment. You have a lot of time to think when you’re digging, weeding and watering. And it hit me that there are several parallels between keeping an allotment and governance. Here are my top 10.

  1. Preparation is everything

When I first got my allotment, it was just a soggy patch of muck, with lots of tree roots and no drainage. The first 9 months I had it was spent digging out roots, putting in drainage ditches, building veg beds and lugging, sifting and digging nutrient-filled soil for the plants to come.

To prepare a well-governed organisation there are some things you need to get right at the start. You must have a constitution document which clearly outlines what your organisation is set up to do, what powers the directors have to achieve the company objectives, and what things they can’t do. Getting this right at the start can save a myriad of problems later on.

Recruiting the right board members is another must. Time invested in defining exactly the sort of skills, experience, behaviours and attitudes you want round the board table will pay dividends when you work as a team.

Learn to Love to Learn

Mandatory governance training. I can almost hear the groans and the chorus of “not again”. And yet just this week, we have heard of trustees being suspended from the Disabled Police Officers Association of Northern Ireland, a second chair stepping down from the child abuse enquiry, and the launch of a criminal investigation into accounting practices at Tesco. Clearly something is not working.