1. What is Governance?

What is governance?

Governance is “The process by which a group of people make decisions that direct their collective efforts” The other notable feature of governance is that usually this role is delegated to a representative group “the committee”. There must therefore be some communication between the wider group and the committee. The wider group may be strictly defined as members or they may be a more vaguely defined group often termed ‘the stakeholders’.

Governance simply describes the way you govern (or rule, or to put it more diplomatically – control and direct). In this case we’re talking about an organisation that is voluntary or with a social purpose, and generally not for profit. But there are parallels to the governance of any enterprise – even for profit ones and of course there are distant parallels with the governance of states. It can be helpful to break governance down into 4 areas;

  1. the committee members themselves
  2. how the committee is structured
  3. how the various structures link together
  4. the tasks and roles that are fulfilled.

The answers in the FAQs 1 to 9 (below) approximately follow this sequence (about committee members, about the structure and running of committees and finally what the role actually entails). For a more detailed definition go to the Wikipedia entry for Small Charity Governance.

Why do we have committees?

Organising civic life by committee has a history that stretches back into the mists of time to the ‘moot’ and before. It still thrives to this day. Similarly, notions of ‘charity’ go back a very long way (think of the story of the good Samaritan), though in English law ‘charity’ was only codified in1601 in the reign of Elizabeth I. So the history of charity goes back a long way and the history of collective decision-making goes back even further.

Next FAQ : Who are the committee members?

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A Word About Words

This site is aimed at those who govern (control) small organisations - whether they are charities, companies, both or neither. Those who govern them may be called a variety of names. We have chosen to use mainly 'management committee' and occasionally 'committee member' or 'trustee'. more...
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