Being a trustee on a Board or committee of a not for profit organisation can bring lots of exciting opportunities as well as specific roles, responsibilities and challenges.

It is a hugely important role as the head of an organisation: everything you do or don’t do will have an impact on it, its staff, volunteers and the community you serve, for better or worse.

This governance resource aims to help you whether you are involved with a small, local entirely voluntary organisation, or one that employs a few staff or is a larger employer.

It has brought together in one place information about what are considered the main aspects of governing an organisation. It has collated information from lots of excellent governance resources and guides and provides links to these as well as to specific tools.

Digital Technology Programme

SociaLink’s Mapping the Social Sector Project identified that 14% of the 144 organisations interviewed were keen to grow their skills and knowledge in governance.  Even if it wasn’t highlighted for others, there are always things to learn about good governance.

Being a trustee or board member may be challenging but remember you are not alone, as noted there are lots of people serving on committees and boards in the social sector in New Zealand – and there is a lot of support, knowledge and tools to support you and your colleagues.

Note about Use of Terms:

In this resource the terms ‘board’ and ‘management committee’ both refer to the governance structure of an organisation.  The terms ‘board member, ‘trustee’ or ‘management committee member’ refer to people with a governance role and are used interchangeably.

Definitions and Information

What is governance? Key elements

‘Governance is Governance’ no matter your organisation’s size or circumstances.

There is no one approach, right or best way to govern an organisation – every organisation is different, with different situations and circumstances, structures, histories and cultures.  Stages of growth vary too from fledging organisations to well established ones, and that also means there may be a different focus at different times.  Similarly all organisations face challenges and can find themselves getting into difficulties, whether long established or new, a small community group or a national body.

No matter your size or stage of growth, in following good governance principles and practice you will be better placed to navigate those challenges and steer a good course to fulfil purpose and safeguard your organisation.

There is no universally agreed definition of governance but these are key elements for all governing bodies:

  • Ensures your organisation complies with all legal and constitutional requirements
  • Sets strategic direction and priorities
  • Sets high-level policies and management performance expectations
  • Characterises and oversees management of risk
  • Monitors and evaluates organisational performance…

…in order to exercise its accountability to the organisation and its members/owners.

Boards are in a position of trust – holding in trust the organisation’s physical and intellectual assets and the efforts of those who have gone before, preserving and growing these for future generations. (from ‘Nine Steps to Effective Governance: Building High Performing Organisations, Third Edition, Sport New Zealand’ see ).

Extra dimensions for Māori organisations

Although good governance principles and practices are universal, no two organisations are ever the same. There are also particular characteristics of Māori organisations which bring extra dimensions to the practice of governance.

Governance for Māori organisations may require consideration of the following:

Purpose of the organisation:

The importance of tikanga and values:

Long-term view:

Appointment of board members:

Board dynamics:

Involving owners in decision-making:

Commercial use of assets:

The Treaty of Waitangi:

Use of Māori terms:

Business Failure – Public Relations:

To read the full text link to: Te Puni Kokiri’s site

Here is a literature review and other interviews on Kaupapa Maori Governance

Why is good governance important?

  •  Effectiveness – your organisation will more likely achieve its purpose.
  • Moral and social responsibility –honouring the work of previous board members, staff and volunteers, appropriately spending money donated or granted to you in good faith.
  • Efficiency – as the head of the organisation, dealing efficiently with roles and responsibilities and challenges will have a flow on effect.
  • Leadership – good governance provides a model for the rest of the organisation and enables it to get on effectively with its purpose.
  • Duty of care –your organisation will have legal obligations and a duty of care towards staff, volunteers, as well as to clients and their families or boarder community.
  • Legal responsibilities- ensuring fulfilment of legal requirements, for example on financial accountability or health and safety will reduce legal risks to individual trustees and your organisation.
  • Sustainability – looking at the horizon and what’s coming will help your organisation navigate ups and downs more successfully.
  • Recruitment and retention –you will be in a better position to find new trustees/committee members and staff – word gets around about how organisations are governed/managed.
  • Personal satisfaction –it will be more rewarding – no-one goes on a board with the intention of being frustrated, disappointed or to get in strife!

Resources, advice and training

 There is lots of advice, training, support and resources on governance and related matters. These organisations providing information and support are listed in alphabetical order.

Charities Services (Department of Internal Affairs)

CommunityNet Aotearoa


Governance New Zealand

Institute of Directors

LEAD Centre for Not for Profit Governance and Leadership

Not for Profit Resource

Project Periscope

Societies and Trusts OnLine (under the Companies Office)

Sport NZ

Stellaris (Tauranga based) – Quality Governance, Education, Expert Business Advisers.

Te Puni Kokiri

Other Support For Governing Bodies

Good Governance Board Service

 Community Governance Aotearoa offers a Good Governance Board Service for not-for-profits.

In Aotearoa New Zealand not-for-profit boards are facing huge challenges with a shortage of resources, time, and money. This puts pressure on not-for profits while the demand for services keeps growing.

The Good Governance Board Service includes six months of tailored support from a governance expert, with a whole board evaluation service designed from a Good Governance Code. A Te Ao Māori board evaluation service is also available.

Are you a Chairperson or Board Member who would like support and help for your board? Contact Community Governance Aotearoa and tell us why you need this service: ‘Ask about this service’