Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Overview of your Committee of Management responsibilities

In this help sheet, the term 'Committee of Management' (COM) is used but it is intended to apply to whatever governance structure your group has, such as a Board. The term "CEO" (Chief Executive Officer) is used but it is intended to apply to whatever name your group has for its head person (coordinator, general manager, chief executive, executive director etc.).

Because all community groups serve different community needs, their Committees of Management (COM) and the types of responsibilities they undertake can vary enormously.

Essentially, though, there are certain basic tasks most COMs need to undertake if they wish to be successful. These can be categorised under the following headings:

These responsibilities are dealt with in further detail in this help sheet, and also in separate, more detailed help sheets in this section of the CDS Governance Centre.

Legal and financial accountability

The COM is responsible for ensuring that your organisation meets all legal requirements and remains accountable to its donors and other stakeholders, including the State Government.

More particularly, the COM needs to make sure that the organisation acts according to its stated mission and for the purpose for which it receives tax exemption.

Legal and financial responsibilities are dealt with in greater detail in other areas of the Our Community website, but some basic information is provided here.

The budget

The budget translates the organisation's individual program goals and strategies into a financial plan for the next 12 months. The COM must finalise and approve the annual budget and needs to sign off on any items of expenditure outside the approved budget.

COM members need to develop a broad understanding of the group's programs and priorities as an essential component of their duty of care. This knowledge provides a sound basis for their financial decision-making, fundraising and further advocacy to the broader community. And it will allow them to consider whether the figures on the budget page actually represent the programs they wish to support in the following year.

All COM members need to be committed to the budget to make it work. This is especially important because COM members are often directly involved in raising funds to support programming for the group.

Reviews

Accurate and clear financial reporting is critical for the COM's reviews of programming and budgets. This vital information will allow COM members to be proactive in future budgeting, allowing them to more accurately target fundraising efforts to new priority areas and away from less successful projects.

Auditing

As part of their review, most not-for-profit COMs choose to appoint a qualified firm or individual to conduct an annual audit of the organisation's financial statements.

Although not always legally required, a properly conducted audit of the year's finances assists the COM in their forward planning, gives valuable information to potential donors and generally lends credibility to the organisation.

Ethics

All organisations have the potential to act dishonourably with quite devastating results. Just as commercial boards have a responsibility to their shareholders for ethical and wise financial management, community group COMs are responsible to their funders, private donors, members and consumers. All transactions - financial or otherwise - need to be transparent, with a consistency of approach and purpose.

Managing risk

Risk management is a vitally important part of a COM's role. The COM must look at all activities undertaken by the group with a critical eye to ensure that risks are minimised and appropriate insurance policies are taken out in case things go wrong. Refer to the Risk Management help sheets at www.ourcommunity.com.au/insurance for more information about risk management.

Strategic vision and objectives

It is the COM's role to:

Strategic planning enables groups to think through and document what they are doing, and for whom, and why they are doing it. The process encourages examination of established directions and strategies for contemporary relevance and results.

Safeguarding the mission and vision

The COM is the guardian of the community group's mission and vision - i.e. what it plans to achieve, where it wants to be and how it plans to get there. Its prime role, in fact, is to keep the vision alive by taking a leading role in planning for the future of the group.

This is an important role for COMs serving groups with or without staff, although it works best in the former case; removed from the day-to-day concerns of the staff, the COM is ideally placed to stand back and take a detached view of potential future directions.

The Chief Executive Officer

Once the mission and vision have been decided upon, the COM must next develop a job description for a person to lead the fulfillment of these goals (if paid staff are going to be required).

A process is then established to select the most appropriate person to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO - or whatever other name the organisation gives its head person). This is an ongoing process as the same person will not remain in that post forever and the head person may well need to change from time to time to suit changing goals and strategies.

In the most productive situations, the COM works closely with its appointed CEO to further the organisation's goals and to broaden its financial and membership support base. Together they regularly review the organisation's overall mission and program goals and decide on a regular evaluation process for all programs to monitor program effectiveness.

An integral part of the organisation's annual cycle of review and planning is the CEO's performance review. The COM, in partnership with the CEO, should decide the process, timing and form of this review.

Fundraising

One of the COM's most important roles is to ensure that there are adequate resources for the group to achieve its program objectives. Depending on the skills and resources of individual COM members, and the number of staff and volunteers serving the organisation, the COM's role could include:

Ethics in fundraising

COM members must ensure they are informed of not only the amounts raised in all fundraising campaigns but how and from whom the funds were raised. For example, parts of the mental health consumer community may not approve of their organisation seeking financial support from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The public must feel confident their donations and gifts will be managed exclusively to further the group's stated mission and objectives.

Fundraising risk management issues

The COM needs to be mindful of practical and risk management issues in relation to fundraising.

Many organisations have found the administration of some fundraising campaigns has far exceeded their group's capacity to deliver. For example, many organisations have launched into a major raffle with pre-purchased cars or expensive holiday packages without first checking whether they had the resources to sell all the tickets.

It is up to the COM to undertake the feasibility studies and other necessary research to become fully aware of the potential risks of new and continuing fundraising strategies. They must be instrumental in overseeing and setting the parameters within which all campaigns will be conducted.

Advocacy

The COM is the primary link between the organisation and the broader community. It represents the interests of the organisation to the broader community and it should filter the diversity of stakeholder views back within the organisation.

To the community

COM members must be familiar enough with the group's programming to be able to clearly articulate the organisation's mission, accomplishments and goals. They need to be able to develop communication strategies that constantly build public awareness and reach new and broader audiences. This could include:

For the community

Individual COM members can provide a voice for important segments of the group's constituency to influence future directions and individual strategies (although you must always keep in mind your obligation to the group and its mission as a whole).

At the same time COM members need to constantly have their "ears to the ground". It is critical that they take the time to regularly listen to candid internal and external views of how the group is performing. Communications need to be structured to provide serious feedback that can potentially have a direct impact on the group's policy and future strategies.

Self-evaluation

COMs need to regularly evaluate themselves to ensure they remain representative, responsive and effective. Evaluation might be carried out informally or could involve holding a COM retreat or setting up a sub-committee specifically for this purpose.

Meetings

All COMs must hold meetings, and must do so as often as the community group's constitution dictates.

More information about COM meetings is contained in the Overview of Committee of Management Meetings help sheet.

 

 

An initiative of Department of Human Services, Developed & Managed by www.ourcommunity.com.au