Charities that want to improve their governance arrangements should focus on people skills rather than internal structures, a new report has concluded.
The report, Delivering Effective Governance: insights from the boards of larger charities, suggests that issues such as performance reviews of chairs and managers’ presence at meetings are more important to good governance than structural concerns such as the size of a board or terms of office.
The report is based on the findings of a survey completed by the chairs and chief executives of 228 of the UK’s 500 largest charities, which was carried out between October and December by the consultancy Compass Partnership and the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School.
Researchers identified 50 key drivers that needed to be in place for an organisation to achieve good governance.
The top three were working well as a team, ensuring meetings "contained excellent governance" and making sure that board members had the required skills and experience.
The report says that 65 per cent of those surveyed said their board spent less than three hours a year discussing governance performance.
Mike Hudson, one of the authors of the report and director of the Compass Partnership, said that many boards were often too preoccupied with the work of their charities to take the necessary time to evaluate their own effectiveness.
"The more time that boards set aside for discussing how they are working, the better," he said.
The report also found that one in seven of surveyed chairs were paid. The higher an organisation’s income, the more likely its chair would be paid, it found.
The report says that although there appeared to be a link between higher attendance at board meetings among charities that paid board members, remuneration had only a "weak link" to governance performance.