Top tips for charity directors

One of the best ways to bolster transparency and accountability in the sector, says acting commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Deborah Jenkins, is through education. 

The ACNC encourages charities to strengthen their governance and improve their practices by providing guidance and resources, including these top-10 tips for board members to stay on top of good governance.

1. Know what the charitable purpose of your charity is and make sure that everyone is working towards it. If you are unsure, ask yourself whether your actions promote your charity’s charitable purpose,

2. Be clear about your role and make sure that the roles and responsibilities of everyone at your charity are well understood, whether people are volunteers, members, board members, clients or employees,

3. Understand your charity’s financial position and be familiar with its financial statements. Everyone on the board shares a responsibility to make sure the charity’s finances are managed well,

4. Keep your responsibilities and legal duties in mind when making decisions as a board member, particularly difficult decisions,

5. Have a copy of your charity’s rules: read them, understand them, follow them and if you are ever unsure, ask other board members or get professional advice,

6. Although board members act as a group, do not just follow the crowd. You should always do what you think is best for your charity, even if sometimes it means taking a different view from other board members,

7. Understand your charity’s obligations to government agencies and make sure your charity is meeting them,

8. Listen to other board members and work as a team. The board shares a collective responsibility for the charity and you should see board members as colleagues,

9. Declare and manage conflicts of interest. Most members of a board will encounter conflicts of interest, and you should feel confident to handle them responsibly, and

10. Always act in the best interests of your charity. As a board member, you have a responsibility to put its interests above any personal ones.