It is important to be aware that all of the trustees’ roles and responsibilities we have identified are governance roles. The difference between governance and management roles becomes particularly important if your group employs staff, but can also be an issue within a purely voluntary organisation (see below).
If your organisation employs staff, it is important to ensure that they can get on with the day-to-day business without having to run to the trustees for decisions on every single matter. Staff want to feel supported and appreciated and will not welcome the trustees sitting on their shoulders watching everything they do.
In essence, the trustees GOVERN and the staff MANAGE. The Trustee role is not dissimilar from that of a School Governor. You would not expect a School Governor to walk into a classroom and tell the teacher how they should teach their class. Similarly a Trustee should not be telling a member of staff how to do their job.
A possible division of roles between a senior staff member and the trustees could run as follows:
THE TRUSTEE BOARD:
- is responsible for the organisation
- safeguards the values and purpose of the organisation
- checks activities contribute to achieving the objects
- decides the policies which provide the framework for the work of staff and volunteers
- decides overall aims and objectives, priorities and strategy
- has overall responsibility for the employment and welfare of staff
- monitors and evaluates progress
- provides recognition and feedback to staff and volunteers
- delegates day-to-day work to staff and volunteers.
THE SENIOR STAFF MEMBER with assistance from staff and volunteers
- carries out the work of the organisation
- reports regularly on achievements and progress
- makes decisions, where the power to do this has been delegated
- provides information on issues, problems and policy matters and makes recommendations
- draws up plans for the future development of the organisation’s work for the committee / Trustee Board to decide upon
- advises and informs the committee / Trustee Board so that it is able to carry out its governing role
- recruits and appoints staff.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRUSTEE BOARD AND STAFF REQUIRES:
- a shared vision for the organisation
- a commitment to achieving the objectives of the organisation
- well understood trustee roles, so that the committee does not interfere inappropriately with the day-to-day running of the organisation
- confidence in the abilities of the staff and willingness to back the judgement of their staff in the event of problems, providing they have been kept informed
- good information to enable informed decisions to be made
- clear management framework and clear lines of accountability.
|Case Study 4: The Succession of Artistic Directors
An old church was converted into an arts centre and the trustees raised enough money to appoint, amongst other staff, an artistic director. In fact they had four in the space of 18 months. The trustees insisted on vetting the director’s proposed programme of events and would often tear it to shreds because of their own individual likes and dislikes. Often the Director would have to go backwards and forwards with new suggestions that would usually be turned down. In the end the Director would resign because of Trustee interference. The Trustees failed to “trust” their senior staff – the professionals they had appointed.
|Case Study 5: Taking the Responsibility
A Manager decided to respond to a controversial letter in the press by expressing his own views quite forcibly in print. The first the Chair of the Trustee Board heard about it was when a friend stopped him in the street and commented on the fiery nature of the letter. The Chair talked over the issue with the Manager and it was agreed that in future the Manager should run media letters past the Chair first because:
With groups that are purely voluntary (i.e. do not employ paid staff), the trustees will probably find themselves both governing and managing. Here certain decisions may be delegated to individual members of the committee and it is important that individual trustees do not exceed the limits of their delegated power.
- A publicity officer amongst the trustees may be able to write press releases
- The treasurer may be able to move money from a current to a deposit account
- The Chair may well represent your group at meetings with funders or statutory authorities.
All these are perfectly permissible but you as trustees need to be aware that you are delegating authority here.
When delegating any authority it is important not only to be aware of when, where and what is being done, but also to ensure that:
- such delegated authority is noted down in the minutes of meetings
- there are proper systems for feedback / reporting back on delegated actions
- if delegated authority is likely to be permanent, that this is reviewed on, perhaps, an annual basis.
|Trustee discussion points for organisations with paid staff:
Split your trustees into two groups and ask one group to consider what they as a trustee board expect from the senior staff member and his/her staff and ask the other group to consider what the senior staff member and his/her staff expect from the Trustee Board. Compare answers.