You may have heard the big news a couple of weeks ago that the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) will finally be proclaimed in force on October 19, 2021. Many organizations subject to the new legislation have already started, or even completed revising their by-laws as proclamation has been pending for a number of years.
These types of changes serve as a reminder to all non-profits across Canada to ensure your governance documents are relevant and in order, regardless of which legislation you fall under.
Taking it one step further, non-profits should review their governance as a whole from time to time, particularly if there are pain points that are becoming unbearable and potentially putting your organization’s success and reputation at risk.
Here are the keys to conducting a successful non-profit governance review...
Establish clear objectives and purpose for the review
Don’t go into a governance review without making sure you have buy-in from key stakeholders regarding the review’s purpose and objectives. Keep them front and center throughout the review so everyone remains on the same page.
Don’t just review structures - look at culture, policies and practices too
Many people think that governance = a board of directors. A board is just one cog in a governance machine. In order to make the machine run most effectively, every major cog needs to be reviewed and considered. This includes going beyond structure and exploring culture, governance policies and practices.
Look at leading practices but only implement those that make sense for your unique organization
Of course we want our non-profits to be cutting edge when we can, but leading practices don’t always make sense 100% of the time. Putting a square peg in a round hole can be frustrating and a waste of time.
Define a process and timelines for governance changes
Once the board (and members if applicable) sign off on any changes to your governance, create a plan that clearly lays out who needs to do what and by when. Approving the governance changes is actually the easy part - implementing the changes normally involves the real heavy lifting!
Monitor the implications and results of governance changes made
Create metrics and a system to measure the success of the governance changes. For example, is the reduction in board size resulting in more efficient and effective meetings? Or is the new streamlined committee structure resulting in time savings for staff and volunteers? Or is there a new member engagement gap since you disbanded a few chapters?
Don’t wait until there is a crisis to trigger a governance review. Create a schedule to review your structure, policies and practices every X number of years. This will ensure the cogs continue to work efficiently and effectively.
Non-profits invest a lot of time and money in their governance. Make sure you are getting the best ROI possible for your organization. Small or large governance reviews, whether scheduled or a full-blown one-off, can help your organization to thrive instead of survive. And you will be in a stronger position to deliver on your non-profit’s mandate!
As always, if you need help with any governance projects, including by-law or governance reviews, don't hesitate to reach out.
Yours in Good Governance,
Heather Terrence, CAE
Pinpoint Governance Group