Person Specification: Sample Document

Please note that our sample documents are intended as examples which can act as starting points and prompters. They should not be taken as definitive, complete or even sufficient for your purposes – you should at the very least consider how your circumstances (requirements, organisational structure etc.) differ. But they are better than a blank sheet!

This document has been slightly adapted from one which came our way from a well-known campaigning organisation – we hope that they don’t mind.


For more on Personnel type issues for the voluntary sector, try the Managing People page.

An Organisation

Person Specification

Job Title: Campaigner

Department: Campaigns

E = ESSENTIAL, D = DESIRABLE for applicants to meet relevant standard


Work experience At least 2 years’ experience of working or volunteering within a campaigning organisation. E Application form
Experience of working with volunteers E Application form/Interview
Experience of carrying out research E Application form/Interview
Experience of lobbying and/or working with MPs/civil servants/local authorities. D Application form/Interview
Experience of organising and prioritising a demanding workload E Interview/Test
Experience of setting up events and meetings E Application form/Interview
Knowledge Knowledge of political processes E Application form/Interview
Knowledge of environmental/ conservation issues D Application form/Interview
Skills Ability to produce accurate work to tight deadlines under pressure E Application form/Test
Ability to communicate clearly in writing and orally to committees and small meetings E Application form/ Interview/Test
Word processing skills/ability to be self-sufficient in terms of administration E Application form/Test/ Interview
Ability to draft campaign literature E Application form/Test
Attitude Commitment to An Organisation’s aims E Application form/Interview

Financial Procedures: Sample Document


Items in italics in the body of the text are Notes


For An Organisation


0. Purpose of document

1. Ordering supplies and services

2. Payment authorisation

3. Cheque writing and signing

4. Handling of cash

5. Salaries, payroll and freelancers

6. Income

7. Bank accounts

8. Books of account and records

9. Budget setting

10. Financial monitoring and audit

11 to 14. Roles


0. Purpose of this document

To define the financial systems used by An Organisation and how they relate to all areas of the organisation (sometimes referred to as Financial Standing Orders).

Relevant to managers and finance staff. All suggestions for amendments to Financial Controller. Minor amendments/updates to be agreed by Management Team; major amendments by Board of Trustees.

1. Ordering supplies and services

All staff need to be aware that expenditure is committed when an order is placed on behalf of AN ORGANISATION, not when the cheque is requested. Therefore, it is important that all orders are placed properly, and are within agreed budgets and delegated powers.

Budget holders can place orders for goods or services within their budget areas, subject only to cash-flow restraints. All orders of £1,000 or more must be authorised by the budget holder, except for specific areas of expenditure where written procedures have been agreed (e.g. book printing). Under £1,000, the budget holder may delegate all ordering as appropriate. Budget holders will discuss with the Financial Controller appropriate parameters, plus maximum allowed deviations before the budget holder or senior manager is brought in, which will be documented.

Any lease, hire purchase agreement or other contract involving expenditure will be subject to the same authorisation procedure as above, with the appropriate expenditure amount being the total committed expenditure over the period of the contract, or where the contract is open-ended, over the first 12 months of the contract. Larger contracts should not be entered into without adequate advice from a relevant professional adviser (e.g. accountant, solicitor, surveyor).

Orders of £1,000 or more must be placed in writing. Orders under £1,000 but over £100 should be in writing where practical . Each Department will devise appropriate ways of keeping records of such orders, which will be contained in an Appendix. Suppliers must be requested to produce invoices. If payment is needed on or before delivery or no credit is given, a ‘pro-forma’ should be provided.

While claims for small items of expenditure may be made via petty cash (see section 4), adequate supporting documentation, preferably receipts, must be obtained. Large items requiring cash payment must be checked with Finance before the arrangement is confirmed.

2. Payment authorisation and Purchase Ledger

All invoices must be authorised for payment by the budget holder, although the actual checking of details may be delegated. The authorising department is responsible for checking invoices for accuracy in terms of figures and conformity with the order placed, that the services or goods have been received, and following up any problems. Finance must be informed if there are queries delaying authorisation or if payment is to be withheld for any reason.

A Purchase Ledger is operated by Finance. All incoming invoices are to be passed to Finance section as soon as they arrive. Invoices will be recorded on to the Purchase Ledger within two days, unless there are coding problems. They are then passed on to budget holders for authorisation. Once authorised as above, suppliers will be paid within the appropriate timescale. This is generally 14 days of invoice date for NICE PEOPLE, 30 days for others, unless there are exceptional cash-flow difficulties or specific supplier arrangements. The latter must be communicated by budget holders to Finance, who will inform them of any difficulties in meeting these.

Refunds of overpayments or cancellations of bookings/orders can be fully delegated to the relevant activity manager or administrator (note that this does not include any ‘compensation’ or similar payment).

3. Cheque writing and signing

Signatories will only be drawn from senior staff and Trustees, and any new signatory must be approved by the Trustees before the bank is notified. All cheques for £100 or over require two signatories. Cheque signatories should check that the expenditure has been authorised by the appropriate person before signing the cheque. Salary payments require the signature of the Director, Company Secretary, Financial Controller or a member of the Board of Trustees, plus one other.

Signatories will not sign cheques which are payable to themselves, or blank cheques. Cheques should be filled in completely (with payee, amount in words and figures, and date) before cheques are signed. The only acceptable exception is that the amount can be blank as long as the cheque is endorsed ‘Not more than £ ….’. Receipts for this type of expenditure must be returned immediately.

The day-to-day limit on encashment of cheques is £250. However, where a larger cash float is required (for a major event for example), this may be approved by the Financial Controller with the Director. When signing cheques to restore the imprest balance (see section 4), receipts accompanied by an add-list must be presented with the cheque request.

4. Handling of cash

Petty cash will be topped up on the ‘imprest’ system, where the amount spent is reimbursed. It is intended for small items, up to £20. Anything over this should be paid by cheque where possible. The imprest has a balance limit of £250. The petty cash balance will be reconciled when re-storing the imprest balance, or monthly if this is more frequent.

All cash collected from Finance will be signed for, and receipts will be issued for all cash returned. Specific extra cash floats (for tills at events etc.) should be arranged with the Financial Controller. The person signing for the float is responsible for ensuring cash and receipts are returned as soon as possible after the event etc. No further floats may be issued to that person, or another person in the same department for a similar purpose, unless the previous float has been accounted for.

Mixing money or receipts from different petty cash sources creates large accounting problems. In a real emergency, where another cash float has to be used for something, a clear record must be kept, and brought to Finance Section’s attention.

Any cash income will be banked via Finance, and not used for petty cash expenditure. Such cash will be passed to Finance:

  • weekly for cash received in-house
  • monthly for payphone
  • immediately after the end of an out-of-house event.

Cash will be kept in locked metal cabinets wherever possible. Appropriate arrangements will be made for till security.

5. Salaries, payroll and freelancers

Could also refer to volunteer (and staff) expenses here.

AN ORGANISATION is required to operate the PAYE system, and make annual returns to the Inland Revenue. All people working directly for AN ORGANISATION, whether permanent or temporary, must provide a P45, or sign a P46 or student exemption certificate, or give reasons why they can’t. All payments will be made by cheque or direct bank credit.

It is the nature of AN ORGANISATION’s activities that a large number of freelance consultants will be used. Freelance contractors will only be taken on when authorised in accordance with section 1 above. With a few exceptions, they will be treated as self-employed, and contracts with such people must clearly indicate this. However, work in other areas of activity must be assumed to be employed by AN ORGANISATION and so subject to PAYE & NIC. Finance will obtain clarification of any unclear areas as needed.

Payments for additional work over and above standard hours must be approved by the relevant Department Head. Clear written authorisation must be given in adequate time for Finance to process it for the relevant payroll. These claims are financial records, and should be treated in the same way as any other.

Payment will usually be made via the NatWest Autopay service, direct to employees’ bank account. The salary payment listings will be checked by the Financial Controller. Salaries will be paid on the 28th of the month, or nearest working day, apart from in December, when it will be the 23rd.

Pay scales and new posts/re-structuring are approved by the Director, and are revised by March for implementation in April. The Board of Trustees will set the Director’s remuneration. Appointments to existing posts are the responsibility of the appropriate Department Head (or Director for senior positions).

Staff loans are not issued, but advances may be made against salary due, by arrangement with Finance.

The finance section is responsible for:

  • paying each employee in accordance with the approved terms and conditions, and issuing payslips.
  • operating the PAYE system, keeping the required records, issuing P45s and P60s, and communicating with the tax office as appropriate.
  • making the correct deductions for Income Tax, NI, court orders and any other appropriate deduction authorised by staff; ensuring that deductions are paid to the correct body, and necessary returns made.
  • administering the Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay schemes, alongside any additional related benefits provided by AN ORGANISATION.

6. Income

The majority of income received by AN ORGANISATION is from sales of services and goods produced. With the exception of bookshop sales, invoices will be issued for every sale as soon as practical. For completeness of customer and sales information, this includes where payment is received with order.

All invoices should be raised on AN ORGANISATION letterhead, or in a format agreed with the Financial Controller and auditors, and be drawn up in accordance with AN ORGANISATION’s standard invoice requirements. In particular VAT invoices need to meet HM Customs and Excise requirements, and must include the VAT registration number, VAT rate and VAT amount. All invoices will be sequentially numbered, with each area of activity having its own prefix reference, agreed with Finance. Any accidental deviations from such sequences must be notified to Finance.

Invoice listings will be produced on a regular basis by the departments generating them. This is at least monthly, to fit in with the reporting system, although high volume activities are expected to be listed weekly. Outstanding invoice payments will be followed up at least monthly by the relevant department.

Information about non-routine and all grant income must be passed to Finance with the cheque or remittance advice. This will be filed by Finance for reference, and used to ensure such income is correctly recorded in the accounts and grant conditions etc. noted. Lack of documentation will lead to such items being ‘held on suspense’. It is the responsibility of the person gaining the grant to ensure all grant income is claimed as it becomes due or available, and that all appropriate staff and the Finance Section are aware of relevant grant conditions and exactly how the grant is to be expended.

Post opening (and control of cheques and cash in) will be subject to random management checks. The process will be written down, so that there is a clear standard for those doing the work regularly, and others covering or checking.

Could also refer to investments (if you have any)

7. Bank accounts

AN ORGANISATION’s bankers are:

  • National Westminster Bank plc, A Branch – Current, Business Reserve & Capital Reserve.
  • CAFCash high interest cheque account.

An automatic sweep arrangement between current and reserve accounts is operated. These arrangements are subject to review, in the light of what is most advantageous in terms of cost and service. All changes are to be authorised by the Trustees.

All income will be paid into the current accounts as soon as possible, not less than once a week. The make up of each banking will be clearly recorded, for later computer entry.

8. Books of account and records

Proper accounting records will be kept. The accounts systems is based around computer facilities, using Sage and Excel, but manual/paper records will also be used if appropriate.

At a minimum, the following records will be kept:

  • appropriate control accounts (i.e. bank control, petty cash control, VAT control).
  • salary control account.
  • monthly trial balances.

Petty cash and bank accounts will be reconciled at least monthly, and VAT returns produced on the required quarterly cycle.

All vouchers entered into the computer system will be clearly initialled by the person entering it, along with date and accounts reference. All income/expenditure information will be recorded within three days. All corrections and adjustments will be clearly noted in a written ‘Journal’ giving reasons for them, with supporting documentation where available.

Purchase Ledger, other cheque payments and banking sheets will be filed in the appropriate reference order, with any supporting documentation. All petty cash vouchers, cheque stubs etc. will be retained for audit and for statutory purposes thereafter.

All fixed assets costing more than £250 (or such other level as may from time to time be agreed by the trustees) will be capitalised in the accounts and recorded in a fixed assets register. This register will record details of date of purchase, supplier, cost, serial no. where applicable, description and in due course details of disposal.

9. Budget setting

12 monthly income and expenditure budgets will be prepared in time for final approval by the Board of Trustees in December, before the start of the financial year under consideration.

Department budgets are prepared by the Head of Department, working with the Financial Controller. Central management budgets are prepared by the Financial Controller in consultation with the Director. The Management Team will play a lead role in ensuring that budgets are set fairly, efficiently and in time. Approval of the budgets is by recommendation of the Management Team to the Board of Trustees.

The approved budget will be used as a base to construct a cash-flow forecast for the year, which will be updated quarterly.

10. Financial monitoring and audit

All budget holders will receive appropriate, regular reports of income and expenditure against budget.

The Management Team will receive:

  • weekly snapshots of cash in hand, total creditors and total debtors.
  • weekly graph of cash in hand.
  • monthly reports of income and expenditure versus budget – within two weeks of month end.

Detailed monthly payroll reports will be produced. Detailed cash-flow reports will be produced as appropriate.

AN ORGANISATION’s financial year is from 1st January to 31st December. Annual accounts will be submitted for audit, as required under the Companies Act, charity regulations and grant conditions, prepared per SORP for Charities and any other relevant accounting conventions. Final draft should be ready for and passed by Board of Trustees in March, with audited accounts signed at the June meeting.

11. Role of Treasurer

Extracted from Charity Finance Yearbook:

The Treasurer works in close co-operation with, and provides support and advice to, the Financial Controller. Specific responsibilities are to:

  • Guide and advise the Board in the approval of budgets, accounts and financial statements, within a relevant policy framework.
  • Keep the Board informed about its financial duties and responsibilities.
  • Advise the Board on the financial implications of An Organisation’s strategic plans and key assumptions included in management’s operational plan and annual budget.
  • Confirm that the financial resources of An Organisation meet present and future needs.
  • Understand the accounting procedures and key internal controls, so as to be able assure the Board of An Organisation’s financial integrity.
  • Ensure that the accounts are properly audited, that accepted recommendations of the auditors are implemented, and meet the auditor at least once a year.
  • Formally present the accounts at the AGM, drawing attention to important points.
  • Monitor An Organisation’s investment activity and ensure its consistency with policies, aims, objectives and legal responsibilities

12. Role of Management

The Management team consists of Heads of This That and the Other, Financial Controller, plus the Director. Each has responsibility for their individual department’s financial performance and ensuring that the department complies with Financial Procedures. They will receive weekly snapshots and monthly management accounts, keeping adequate records to be in control between monthly reports. The Team will review finances thoroughly at its monthly meetings.

13. Role of Board of Trustees

The committee is responsible for:

  • approving the budget for the year.
  • approving signatories to the bank accounts.
  • appointments of staff where not delegated to the Director.
  • receiving reports from the Management Team on areas of concern.
  • approving exceptional items of expenditure.
  • monitoring the financial position based on monthly reports, with advice from the Director.
  • approving the annual accounts, auditors report and appointment.

14. Role of Financial Controller

The Financial Controller is the lead person for processing all changes and exceptional items, and will assist the Treasurer in any financial matter connected with the organisation.

The Financial Controller will ensure that adequate security precautions are taken to safeguard financial and other assets.


Refer to Job Description


  • Departmental recording of orders placed.
  • Information on delegations to be filed with these Procedures.

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Policies and Procedures Checklist


Has your organisation got all the policies or procedures it needs? The following does not pretend to be complete, or what everybody needs, but it is a starting point. We have grouped these, but an item can address more than one area in practice. Try not to be overwhelmed by the length of the list – some will only need to be short, but a bit of careful thought now can save major problems later. New organisations shouldn’t try to achieve perfection too quickly (unless you’ve got loads of resources) – identify the most important for your situation and get those right first.

The difference between Policy and Procedure, and quite what goes where, gets a lot of people confused. We would say that procedures follow on from policy – how you do it in practice – and can be a separate document or a section of the same. It is often worth trying to be clear, as a policy change may or may not alter the procedure, while a necessary change in procedure should not be allowed to change the policy by default. It should be clear in a procedure which policy or policies it relates to.

Other sector resources on policies and procedures

Resource Centre Did have following material: The Chair’s job, Legal structures, News release, The Secretary’s job, Constitutions, Media contacts, The Treasurer’s job, Bank accounts, State your case, AGM checklist, Running a creche, Radio interviews.

Community Toolkit, managed by Skye and Lochalsh CVO, has lots of useful material. Note that on some matters Scottish law varies from English/Welsh.

Search on NCVO’s Knowhow Nonprofit site for policies you are interested in.

Basic requirements

  • Health and Safety Policy and Procedure. See H&S issue page. Could include:
    • Workstation assessment procedure.
    • Fire safety.
  • Equal Opportunities Statement of Intent. See Equal Opps bodies for some guidance. Could include:
    • Harassment.
    • reference to Recruitment procedure.
  • Confidentiality Policy (including Data Protection – see Info Management page).
  • Risk Assessment. This was under H&S, but the current charity SORP (accounting standard) requires trustees to consider risks and review the steps needed to mitigate them much more widely. See sample document, and the Insurances/Risk Management issues page.


  • Volunteers. See Volunteers page for sources of advice.
    • Basic Policy (when you would use volunteers, how to recruit/assess suitability, management, two-way ‘contract’).
    • Expenses Policy (with due regard to Inland Revenue rules – see Finance Procedures or Tax and Expenses page).
  • Staff Disciplinary procedure.
  • Staff Grievance procedure.
  • Staff Appraisal procedure. See sample Appraisal Form.
  • Supervision.
  • Staff expenses – see Finance Procedures below and refer to Pay, Tax and Expenses page
  • Staff loans (travel, cycle, car).
  • Union recognition Policy.
  • Sick Leave Policy and procedure.
  • Leave policy and procedure.
  • Time off in Lieu Policy and procedure.
  • Public Duties.

People management issues are covered further on the linked page.

  • NCVO will send model standard and fixed term employment contracts in return for an sae to the Helpdesk, NCVO, Regent’s Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London, N1 9RL (helpdesk phone 0845 600 4500).
  • See Employment page for more sources of advice, including relevant government regulations.

Office Management

  • Green Office Policy/Environmental Impact. See issues page.
  • E-mail/internet use policy.
  • Personal, or associated group, use of office facilities.
  • Security.

Also see Admin page for issues.

Ethics, Empowerment, Improvement

  • Complaints Procedure (for members, service users, public).
  • Service user/member involvement.
  • Training policy (staff, volunteers and committee members).
  • Quality/monitoring policy (see Planning & Evaluation page).
  • Staff involvement policy.
  • (A learning organisation policy makes little sense in isolation – see notes under People Management.)
  • Ethical Investment Policy. See Ethical Investment page.
  • Whistleblowing.
  • Child/vulnerable adult protection (if working in these areas) – ‘safeguarding’.


  • Sponsorship or Fundraising Policy.
  • Partnership working. See issues page, including Compacts with public sector funders which should be common to all organisations in the area.
  • Campaigning Policy. Methods, issues, co-operation?
  • Media Handling – who is authorised to say what, how to handle probing questions. Think about before a sensitive issue hits! See Getting the message across.
  • Supplier selection (fairness or reasons for preferences such as environmental or social, value for money, reference to Finance Procedures).


See Finance Resources page.

  • Insurances (possibly for events, volunteers, trustees etc. as well legal requirements).
  • Reserves Policy (required under Charity SORP).
  • Other accounting policies often part of audit process (eg valuation of assets).
  • Financial Policies and Procedures. See Sample.


See Governance page.

  • AGM procedures.
  • Committee Procedures (standing orders). What to do in the absence of the chair, voting, declarations of interest, expenses.
  • Management Committee/Board (and sub-committee) Terms of Reference. Could be part of standing orders. Constitution may give the legal framework, but not usually easy to refer to. Can help to clarify where policy is made, where responsibility for key areas lies (with sub-committee, main committee, chair, senior staff, outside consultant etc). If a registered charity or company, make sure that ‘lines of responsibility’ back to the Board are clear.
  • Job descriptions for officers – chair, treasurer (see sample Financial Procedures), secretary and any others.
  • Conflicts of Interest.

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Starting Up

We say it elsewhere: all organisations are different, and the voluntary and community sector is very diverse. We can’t say do this, that and the other and you will be sorted. Hopefully the following will raise the pertinent issues, and point you to the appropriate next steps. Also find out if you have a local CVS (Council of Voluntary Service/Voluntary and Community Action group) or similar – see Local Contacts page.


  • Are you clear about what the proposed organisation is going to do?
  • Have you checked whether there is somebody already doing this? Are they doing it so differently to how you would want? Would it be better to get involved to a) see if there are good reasons behind this or b) try to persuade them to change their ways?
  • Or is there an organisation which could perhaps develop or add to its work? Setting up and running any organisation takes time and effort that might be better put into the frontline activity.


  • There are many ways of constituting an organisation (establishing a body with formal rules). See our Registration page on charities and limited companies. Consider the various questions posed.
  • Think ahead. It is quite technically and legally complex to change status later on. In the early stages it may make sense to stay as informal as possible, but if things start taking off look into registration issues sooner rather than later, to redue the problems.
  • Take legal advice if you can. This may be available via your local Council of Voluntary Service (CVS), an appropriate umbrella/support body or a law centre. If you can afford to pay, you can try a charity law specialist (see the Legal Services page). However, we have been closely involved with a charity which was was previously very badly advised on constitutional matters by such – they may overcomplicate things.
  • You may technically be required to register as a charity, e.g. if your activities are of a charitable nature and your annual turnover is above £1000 (England & Wales only –  figure, correct 2004, needs updating). However, many don’t and there aren’t significant penalties at present. Funders may also require charity registration.


  • How soon are you likely to hit the need for an annual audit of the accounts? (Check Charity Commission site re charities.)
  • When might you start employing staff, or will the organisation always be volunteer run? When might it end up paying rent on or owning premises? Both of these indicate a need to get limited liability.
  • Take a look at other Management, Admin and Finance pages on VolResource to get a flavour of what issues might need to be thought through in the early stages, and what to come back to later. We have tried to give practical advice relevant to the smaller organisation, and indicate what only concerns larger ones, but there is still a lot here. The start-up period can get bogged down – try to strike a balance so that initial enthusiasm for your cause doesn’t evaporate. A pragmatic, staged, approach is probably best.


  • What expertise do you amongst those already involved, and what do you need to ‘buy in’ somehow? For example, accountancy, management, admin, the particular activity you are undertaking. There may be legal requirements here, depending on your type of activity and type of constitution chosen.
  • What resources are you going to need? Money, premises, equipment, materials.
  • What ways can you get your new organisation noticed where it matters, whether to gain recognition and resources or to influence?


  • For yourselves, but also bounce ideas off others who aren’t so involved. They may see things that you are too close or absorbed to spot. Considered criticism, even when it seems unconstructive, can help separate potential reality from fantasy but can be hard to come by.
  • Don’t get confused by the jargon used, especially as different parts of the sector can have different spins on the same word. See our Glossary.


At some point, you just need to get on with it!


Overview, types of governing body, checklist for committee members


Governance – the systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation. from Cornforth via ChangeUp (2004)

NB We will use ‘The Board’ to equate with Management Committee, Board of Trustees or Directors or any other title the governing body is called.

Governance is very much a live issue in the charity world at present. Both via SORP (accounting standards) and greater monitoring, the Charity Commission is out to ensure The Board are clear on their legal responsibilities and how these are carried through by the activities of staff or volunteers. With increased contracting of care and other services to the voluntary sector, rather than the commercial or public, journalists, politicians and commentators are recognising the management weaknesses which have previously been ignored because of the ‘good cause’ perspective.

The Board, however composed or called, has ultimate legal responsibility for the organisation. Much may be delegated, but there must be clear lines of authority – key is defining responsibility reporting, to ensure that information of the right type and detail for the organisation’s size and complexity gets to Board members in a reasonable timescale. Boards should meet frequently enough to handle the resulting workload, although sub-committees and officers can play a part.

Strategy, policy matters and monitoring of efficiency and effectiveness are often quoted as the function of the Board. Operational details should be left to staff and volunteers. However, particularly in smaller organisations, it is not easy to be so clear cut. Board members may be closely involved in the work and will often comment on their experience at the ‘front line’. Here they should try to recognise that they are really wearing a different hat, as a volunteer or ordinary member, and not confuse it with their essential Board role.

Functions can be classified under five headings, according to Margaret Harris (Professor of Vol Sector Organisation at Aston University Business School, quoted in Voluntary Organisations and Social Policy):

  • being the employer
  • formulating and monitoring adherence to agency goals
  • securing and safeguarding resources
  • being the point of final accountability
  • providing a link or buffer between the agency on the one hand and its external stakeholders and environment on the other.

Checklist for Trustees/Management Committee members

  • Is it a Limited Company? If yes:
    • You are therefore a company director, subject to company law.
    • Check the Companies House web site. Essential information and downloadable forms are available here. If your organisation is registered under Industrial and Provident/Friendly Society legislation – ignore the next two points.
    • Newly appointed? Form 288a must be filled in and returned (don’t forget the date of birth box!). The timetable for this is very tight but in practice just get it in a.s.a.p.
    • Companies House has been in recent years sending out info on director responsibilities to newcomers – check with your organisation if nothing arrives after filling in the form.
    • Who is the Company Secretary? This is not an optional post. Often the most senior staff member carries out this role (they can even in a charity as they are not automatically a director).
    • Is it required to hold AGMs?
  • If not a limited company, has this been considered? See our Registration page.
  • Is it a registered Charity? If yes:
    • You are therefore a trustee, subject to charity law.
    • In England or Wales, see the Charity Commission web site. They have an introductory leaflet for new trustees, downloadable.
    • Has the charity made it annual return, on time or at all? This used to be a non-event, but the Charity Commission are now will be pursuing defaulters much more vigorously.
    • See our page on various Trustee resources.
  • Are you an Officer – Chair, Treasurer, Secretary? If yes:
    • Is there a job description for the post? If not, find a model or at worst draw up your own, listing the areas you believe are your responsibility, who you need to work with etc. (Try ICSA Guidance notes.) Then circulate it for comment, and possibly approval.
  • Do you know how the following duties are carried out within the organisation?
  • Have you seen ….
    • The most recent annual accounts? Are they audited? If not, why is this?
    • The ‘Mem and Arts’ if a limited company, or other constitution.
    • Procedures for conducting Board and other meetings? May be in constitution or separate ‘standing orders’.
    • A list of approved policies and procedures, and know how to get copies?

Types of Governing body

Five ‘types’ of governing body have been identified. This approach can be used to examine how it relates to the rest of the organisation, and management consequences. (Research by Vic Murray and Pat Bradshaw-Camball as reproduced in Open University Business School course B789.)

  • Approving. Well established, serviced by a professional manager who makes recommendations on all major issues, with sub-committees and few votes.
  • Leaders. Honorary officers or the whole group are strongly committed and zealous in their pursuit of the organisations goals, with staff there to implement. Communication is often personal, and an expectation placed upon senior staff to have unquestioning loyalty.
  • Representative. All stakeholders (see Working Relations) well represented on the governing body, with multiple and potentially conflicting goals, objectives, and values. There will be power contests and staff and governors are seen more in terms of their commitments than their formal roles. The senior manager will have to be politically astute!
  • Consensual. Rejects the traditional roles and structures, and only acknowledges them on paper where legally necessary. Rotating offices, sharing experience and responsibility etc are characteristic.The senior manager will need to provide appropriate support to committees and consensus. Tensions are likely to arise over employment rights, and some will gain considerably from opportunities made available.
  • Involved. Lacks clear direction, leadership or agreed purpose. Loads of energy and commitment, but lacking in co-ordination. Achievements will be uneven and the senior manager may be expected to both provide support and be closely controlled by the governing body. This scenario is frequent in early days of a voluntary organisation.

The Recent Picture

From research done by Chris Cornforth at Open University Business School, using postal questionnaires sent to 2797 charities, with a 26% response rate:
– Only about 35% of charities provide job descriptions for board members.
– Only 23% provide some sort of initial training or induction for new board members.
– These percentages are somewhat higher for the larger charities (the range goes from 20% for the smallest to 77% for the largest!).
– Average frequency of board meetings was between 5 and 7 a year.
– The size of board in small to medium charities is increasing, but decreasing in larger charities.
– The average size of boards increases with organisation size, going from under 9 in the smallest charities, up to almost 21 for the largest.

The full results from this research are in ‘Recent Trends in Charity Governance and Trusteeship’ published May ’01 by National Council for Voluntary Organisations, ISBN 07199 15910, £12.50.

Further Resources


See magazine listings re Governance bi-monthly.

On the Web

NCVO’s Governance resources.

Governance pages is from research body ARVAC “information on governance and management committees for community groups and small voluntary organisations”.

Governance in the Jewish voluntary sector Report for Jewish Policy Research, 2001.

Founder Syndrome. Seemingly an international issue, we recognise the picture given in a piece on Help4Nonprofits. We would add to the problems associated with founders carrying on running an organisation for too long: carrying a sense of history and mindset which may make it difficult to recognise how things have changed; thinking that nobody else can do what they do (possibly true but this perception is often wrong) when there are other ways that the organisation can (and perhaps should) work.