Charities Act Submission

SociaLink has prepared the following submission on the Review of the Charities Act 2005. We encourage other social sector organisations to use this submission as a base or just copy and submit on your own behalf. A summary of the recommendations follows or you can download and read the full submission here.

Summary of Recommendations

  • That the timing of the review be extended to incorporate broader terms of reference and a first principles review, and be undertaken by the Law Commission.
  •  That the Department of Internal Affairs refer the review of the Charities Act 2005 to the Law Commission along with the current public submissions.
  •  An independent crown entity be established for the charitable/not for profit sector.
  •  SociaLink supports the inclusion of the additional purpose outlined on page 17 of the discussion document that is based on the objective of the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission Act 2012, section 15-5(1) (b):
  • to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative charities sector.
  •  That appropriate mechanisms be established for charitable trusts to have the right to appeal decisions made about them under the auspices of the Act.
  •  That Charities should be able to undertake advocacy as they see fit, as an activity to further their purpose.
  •  SociaLink endorses any calls for more resource and attention on reducing complexity and streamlining legislation and regulation affecting Māori charities and their purpose.

Leadership Transitions are an opportunity for change

Nothing challenges the complacency of a board like the resignation of the organisation’s manager (AKA CEO, Executive Director, or the myriad of other names for the person who runs the place). All governance models, theories and personal experience point to recruitment of this person being one of the most important jobs a board has is to carry out.

Finding the right person is paramount and good processes can avoid expensive bad decision making, time wasting, and depletion of energy. In our sector there are many examples of good practice. I have participated in, supported, and led, several leadership transitions.  This has been a privilege and learning opportunity, as I’ve had the opportunity to observe what works, and what creates stumbling blocks.  Here’s the summary:

It all starts with the board

The shift to a new leader is the time when a board should make sure the organisation strategy is current, relevant, and clearly articulated. The Strategic Plan needs to be the foundation document on which to base recruitment. The goal is to hire the best person to achieve the organisation’s vision, in relation to where the organisation is at in its life cycle, not the person who is as much as possible like the person you are replacing.

The goal is to hire the best person to achieve the organisation’s vision, … not the person who is as much as possible like the person you are replacing. 

While the board is clarifying the strategy, and the skills and competencies of the person they see could achieve the strategy, it is also time to get the governance house in order. In my experience, it is the boards who review their own performance (and particularly their relationship with the manager), and who are clear what type of board they want to be, that successfully and more easily welcome in a new leader.

Boards who think they can sit back once they have the new person in place are sadly mistaken. As much as this is a particularly important time in the life cycle of the organisation, it is also a particularly important time in the life cycle of the board – one where a partnership approach is required. I have observed many new leaders needing ongoing board support, sometimes for up to a year. Not for profit leadership is complex and expecting a superhuman to walk in and take over from day one is a recipe for chaos.

Not for profit leadership is complex and expecting a superhuman to walk in and take over from day one is a recipe for chaos.

The outgoing person is in there too

While succession is without a doubt the board’s job, I am yet to see a successful transition where the outgoing leader has not made a concerted effort to ensure the recruitment process is well informed and supported. No-one else know the intricacies of the role and they usually have the right stakeholder connections, networks and relationships in place.

I have seen both successes and disasters when it comes to the outgoing leader being on the selection committee. Like much of not for profit leadership, the answer to the question of the virtue of this is “it depends”. Boards need to ask what the benefits and risks are of them being on the team.

It takes a village to recruit a new leader

It is the connections and networks the exiting leader and board have that usually brings the next leader. The new person is often recruited either from within or are sent by the community of stakeholders. It is worth keeping in mind stakeholders and members have a vested interest in making sure the right person is in the job and it is my experience there are genuine risks to be considered and managed (but not impossibly so), when an organisation recruits outside of their constituency.

I am often asked whether the tasks of recruitment (i.e. advertising, recruitment, shortlisting etc) should be outsourced. I have seen this work both very well, and disastrously. See my previous article on selecting the right consultant for your organisation.

The best board recruitment sub-committees (and having one is a success factor) I have worked with include board members who have: experience with recruitment; diverse worldviews; and are able to ask critical (as in analysis, not criticising) questions. Even better are the sub-committees who include an external stakeholder on the team.

It might just be me, but the actual tasks required to recruit someone are not rocket science, but a Recruitment Plan is in fact, essential. Use someone else’s template, or list the tasks and work backwards from when the new person needs to start. Be prepared to be startled as to how long recruitment takes. The process is likely to not go to plan 100%, but a framework reduces the risk of the process going off the rails.

When it comes to choosing the best person, I have identified three essential selection tasks that lead to success.  Firstly, the importance of referees cannot be understated and should include informal inquiry around the sector. Secondly, applicants presenting a strategy or some thoughts about their role in the interview is like reading a book about who they are and how they think, so it’s worth asking for this. Finally, listen for clues (and red flags) from both the applicant and their referees with regards to their values and their relationship skills. Here’s the thing about our sector:  Hard skills can be taught, or even outsourced. But how someone builds and maintains relationships is usually about who they are as a leader.

This is about change management

Bringing a new leader in to the organisation will alter the dynamics of the staff and volunteer teams, and there will be a change in management/leadership approaches. Successful transitions are evident when the board and new leader work in partnership to manage this change, and it is done in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

Successful transitions are evident when the board and new leader work in partnership to manage this change, and it is done in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

We know that communication is the essence of good change management and it needs to be evident throughout with a Transition Plan. Again, putting it down on a shared document helps to stay on track without being rigid. Timely communications to the right people, with the right information, and in the right way, will make or break the transition.

Finally, how a board says “Goodbye” and “Welcome” at the same time is when we see an organisation’s values in action. I have noticed that when this is done well it provides energy and positivity to the change taking place.

Summary of the Key points in case you’re skim reading

Successful transition is not just a checklist of administration tasks, it requires:

·         Organisation and governance readiness.

·         A collective approach from the board, outgoing manager, and stakeholders and members.

·         Good management of the process, including a recruitment committee and a Recruitment Plan.

·         Using hiring tools to support the right selection.

·         A change management approach.

One last thing. An experienced organisation development coach once told me that a good question for boards to ask themselves is: “What will the board who are in place in 10 years’ time think of our choice of leader?” In line with most governance functions the answer is: “If we keep it strategic, we’re doing our job”.

Sandy Thompson

Social Investment

Social Investment

The Social Investment Agency (SIA) is currently travelling Aotearoa to talk to people who use social services, and NGOs and government agencies that provide social services, about two topics.
1. The Government’s investing for social wellbeing approach.
The Government wants to help improve people’s wellbeing so that New Zealanders can live the lives they aspire to. The Government has developed a new approach to investing in New Zealanders wellbeing that takes into account that people lead diverse lives with different needs, and enables choices that build individual, family and community wellbeing.
The SIA wants to hear what people think about the approach, and how it could be put into practice.
2. A policy to guide the protection and use of personal information in the social sector.
Information collection, sharing and use, play an important role in helping the most effective services be provided to the people who need them. New Zealanders’ need confidence that those using and sharing their information are doing so safely and everyone understands what’s appropriate, what’s not and whether their personal information needs to be collected at all.
The SIA wants to hear the circumstances and concerns that different groups have in relation to the collection
and use of personal information, and what could be done to improve what currently happens. The SIA are engaging with service users, NGOs and government agencies to get feedback and input through a series of hui around the country. There will also be two online surveys, one for each topic that anyone can fill in to have their say. This input will then inform the Government’s investing for social wellbeing approach and the development of
the Data Protection and Use Policy.
Engagement began on 31 May when Minister Sepuloni and Minister Henare opened the first hui in South Auckland. The SIA will be heading to Waikato in June to talk to NGOs about the two topics. The SIA will be seeking input and feedback through hui and online until the end of August 2018. Please check out the SIA’s website to find out more about the work they are doing, and provide your input through the surveys.

How to work with diverse people?

We have all seen situations where people with different personalities, goals and needs struggled to work out their differences in a constructive way. As a consequence people are getting stressed, frustrated and distracted from what really matters.

The differences between people are impacting their interactions and (work) relationships no matter if those relationships are with clients, colleagues, suppliers or boards.

People can perceive and experience one and the same situation very differently. A healthy debate for one person can be experienced by another person as an emotionally draining conflict. People think, feel and react in different ways. While this diversity in people can be a valuable asset in the workplace and our community, diversity can at the same time be a source of conflict. We need to acquire new skills to maximise the opportunities that diversity brings and to minimise potential conflicts and misunderstandings.

Opportunities arise when people with diverse thoughts and skills understand how to acknowledge and use their individual differences for the greater good of their clients, team or organisation. On the flipside, conflicts emerge when people cannot see the value of each other and when they struggle to make people feel acknowledged and listened to.

In today’s world the skill of successfully working and interacting with people who are different is essential. The journey starts with developing ourselves to learn how we uncover and minimise our own biases, how we communicate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and how we resolve negative emotions and conflict between people.

If you are interested in developing the essential skill of how to successfully work with diverse people in a one day workshop please register your interest by emailing