Checklist: Policy, politics and the board

By governance expert Ruth Lesirge

Ruth Lesirge
Ruth Lesirge

It is well known that charities must not act in a party political manner, but trustees might nevertheless see it as important that they influence public policy. Many boards that avoid overt campaigning use the evidence emerging from their work to make the case for their beneficiaries.

It is essential, therefore, that trustees are adept at interpreting political changes. This is a precondition for governance: consideration of the potential impact such changes might have on organisational purpose.

It also enables boards to identify how the changes relate to their objects and to the organisation's identity and values. These are essential ingredients of any governance input to the strategic plan.

To achieve this, many boards will need to strengthen their governance capacity. One way is to appoint trustees with political skills - recognising that not every politically connected person is an ideal trustee.

Another approach I have seen is to delegate this question to a sub-group that includes one or more of the senior executives and can co-opt specialist expertise. In preparing for the year, the best boards will ensure a cohesive approach to policy that promotes the interests of their cause and beneficiaries.

Governance Advice

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