Case study: governance at VSO

A new member of staff will help trustees at the overses volunteering charity to cope with its federal structure

The challenge

VSO needed to improve communication between its board and its paid staff and bolster the support it offered to trustees.

The process

VSO has been in the process of moving to a federated structure, which now comprises five independently constituted organisations in the Netherlands, Kenya, Canada, the Philippines and the UK.

The charity had found that its reporting structures between the board and paid staff in its UK operation had become fragmented. There was no single point of contact between the two. The organisation also found that it needed to monitor and comply with an increasing level of governance standards.

"We are evolving into an international federated organisation," says Siham Bortcosh, director of finance and corporate services at VSO. "Our board is becoming more international in its make-up, and that is set against an increased emphasis on governance standards. That led us to look at the process we have got in place to support the board. We decided we needed to strengthen it."

As a result, the organisation decided to appoint a new governance-support worker to tackle these issues.

The outcome

Bortcosh says the new post will improve communication between the board and staff.

"A number of key areas have been dealt with disparately by a number of people in the organisation, and we are now bringing them together under the banner of this new post," she says.

The post holder will also focus on supporting trustees in dealing with legal compliance and risk management.

"We are not trying to fix something that is broken, but we are trying to be better and pre-empt any problems," says Bortcosh.

"We have to be sure that we have the right systems in place to enable us to concentrate on the charity's real work."

VSO is now in the process of recruiting someone to carry out the job.

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