NZARC Blog

The New Zealand Association Resource Centre Trust (NZARC) blog is a place for board members, partner organisations, and subscribers to contribute articles and discuss issues of relevance to the non-profit sector. Contributions are welcome and encouraged.

ALIGNING NON-PROFIT WEBSITE WITH MISSION

This was the subject of a recent blog emanating from Firespring.org.  It made us aware of the not uncommon occurrences of websites, not lacking in creative merit, having been built in a vacuum.

As a cost saving measure some chief executives, sometimes under the influence of a board member, may be inclined to resort to the talent on offer from a close associate or related person largely based on their technical competence, but who may not be sufficiently versed in the purpose and mission of the organisation.  As a result the website will not be aligned with the aims and objects nor integrate with its strategic plan. In many cases the site may look attractive on first impression, but lack in functionality or in an extreme case, look amateurish in spite of its cool features.

Firespring.org points out the importance of every single marketing tool forming part of a cohesive whole that amounts to integrated marketing and needs to be designed to be in sync with everything else in the marketing arsenal.

Ideally the development of the website should be overseen and directed by the chief executive or, depending on the size of the operation, a designated marketing communications executive.  It cannot be left to a technical expert, who is not familiar with the organisation.  Once set up and approved it calls for constant nurturing and updating to keep pace with ongoing activities and structural changes to ensure that the organisation’s purpose, mission and soul is infused throughout the site.  It requires a thorough brief to the developer to ensure that the right story and image is conveyed.  Further down the track it demands constant upkeep to keep the contents of the website current.  It is noticeable how many non-profits are failing in this regard, thereby depriving their members and supporters of current information and demeaning its image and profile.

The bottom line in all this is to ensure that the website should correctly portray the entity as a functional being and how its methods are achieving beneficial outcomes for its constituency and the wider audience relying on its services.  Otherwise it will be just another visual edifice on the internet that accomplishes little of practical value.

Readers intent on commissioning a new or requiring a review of an existing website are invited to contact the NZARC secretariat for advice and assistance.   


Planning for the Future

An article under this heading in a recent issue of Governance and Compliance, the official journal of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators UK contained the statement that strategic planning in volunteer directed entities can prevent boards from driving the organisation forward.  The authors maintain that even where there is no written version, maintaining the status quo is as much of a strategy as radical innovation, provided allowance is made for:

  • Objective understanding of the current situation and the environment in which the organisation operates;
  • Definition of its long term aims and vision normally over three to five years;
  • A clear set of milestones and processes to enable it to realise its objectives.

It makes the point that a strategic plan that is produced purely for the purpose of seeking funding, is unlikely to be owned by the board and will therefore be of very limited use.  To be effective it must regularly be referred to, periodically revised to changing circumstances and embody how the organisation intends to live its values. 

Trustees of the New Zealand Association Resource Centre Trust engaged in an annual Planning Retreat facilitated by its Vice-Chair, Jeremy Tunks. They re-examined the aims and objects to determine how they can best carry out projects and assignments that are of direct benefit to their wider constituency of subscribers.  This involved every member of the team and operates as two working groups charged with investigation and implementation in a planned manner. 

Affiliated advisory trustees frequently come across situations where voluntary organisations have been professionally assisted in the formulation of a strategic plan on the understanding that it requires strict observance like being cast in stone until the next annual review comes around.  Not unexpectedly such documents fail in their application as they don’t evolve and do not enable the organisation to react with alacrity to opportunities and threats that may not have been apparent when the original document was drawn up.

As the ICSA text explains external conditions can be subject to rapid change and the assumption that a strategic plan will inevitably be prescriptive or unresponsive will often deter some boards from developing one.  Factors determining how the strategy of an association or charity is devised, include:

  • The degree to which the expectations of members, funders and wider stakeholders are reflected in the organisation’s priorities;
  • To what extent and in which areas staff, volunteers and users of services are consulted during the development of the strategy;
  • The extent to which the board steers the process or lets the chief executive develop the strategy unaided.

This may involve the board in the following key stages:

  • Before the planning process starts in order for it to be well designed and adequately resourced;
  • Considering how it aligns with the vision, mission and values contained in the founding document be it a constitution or trust deed.
  • Setting out a process for monitoring and reviewing progress against the strategic plan, including key performance indicators.

A constructive relationship between the Chair and the CEO is essential to ensure that the board receives diverse input to the strategy and is not totally reliant on the opinion of board members, who may not necessarily be business or professional practitioners with wide access to information.  Typically, a focused three month process of conversation, research and analysis of options produces a plan to determine the direction, subject to corrections for the next three years.

Effective strategic plans are written to fit their individual organisations.  Some elements are common to all, but this should not be seen as an easy option to copy and improvise, as there is no formula that fits all.  Each organisation has its own character and special purpose that cannot be replicated strategically.  The same can be said for engaging a consultant and relying on his/her skills as a documenter in the hope that the finished product will live up to expectations.  The best strategic plans are concise and accessible and use language that vividly explain what is intended.

Many associations and trusts choose to develop their strategic plan unaided.  Although this may appear to be a good cost saving choice, it does carry dangers in failing to constructively prescribe where the organisation wants to go and how to get there.  Involving somebody with the expertise and industry or sector understanding required will go a long way to come up with the best results.

The New Zealand Association Resource Centre Trust is able to advise and assist associations and trusts in the formulation, review and execution of their strategic objectives. 


Associations Matter Study - key findings

The latest findings of the 2014 Survey Matters focussed on understanding Association members’ opinions of the current activities and services provided by their professional association. The resulting findings aim to enable professional associations to better understand opinions and preferences of their members so they could tailor strategies to the needs of their members.

This is the second Associations Matter Study supported by the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE). Building on the findings of the first 2013 survey, members (6,500 members in 21 associations) were asked for more details on the source and nature of their major professional challenges. The results provide professional associations with information about

     what their members want from their membership

     how they believe the can contribute

     where their association can assist them achieve their own goals and objectives

Key Findings:

When members believe their association’s management and board understand the strategic issues facing the profession, the organisation maintains a more satisfied and engaged membership.

Members Challenges:

It is up to each association to understand the specific challenges facing their own members

     Keeping up to date with information - majority of respondents believe that their association is a reliable and credible provider of information about their profession. They believe that looking beyond seminars, annual conferences and articles to other forms of communication is key.

     Protecting the reputation of the profession - members look for their association to promote their profession to governments for advocacy, and the sector to the public. They want their association to provide solid leadership and a strong brand.

     Cost pressures - although dropping in rank from 2013, 28% of respondents still indicate that cost pressures are facing practitioners in their field or profession.

For the full report please click here.


Governance Survey Recommendations

The 2014 NFP Governance and Performance Study was recently conducted in Australia and we think there are significant lessons to be learned that can equally apply to the New Zealand non-profit sector. Of special mention is the analysis of issues faced by boards in the education and aged care sector.

The study answers questions about the quality of governance in Australian NFPs, examines the complex issues of mergers and collaboration and identifies key issues governments should address in supporting the NFP sector.

Key Findings:

NFP Governance:

NFP governance continues to evolve with boards dividing their time between strategy, managing funding, reviewing performance, risk oversight and compliance. The highest ratings for governance performance were for organisations operating in the aged care and international sectors.

Boards target areas for future development:

Approximately ⅓ of boards are planning revisions to their organisation’s constitution. They also identify the three things that would most improve board performance as:

     more highly skilled directors

     better information for decision-making

     higher levels of governance skills

Collaboration and mergers:

Collaboration and mergers are on the agenda with NFPs actively collaborating and partnering with other NFPs to deliver services across the sector. More than ⅓ have an agreement / memorandum of understanding (MOU) to refer or service clients with the highest of these being in the health sector. Other NFPs share resources such as building, equipment and back-office costs. Collaboration was highest in the education, health and social services sectors.

Better performance indicators

Even though widely agreed that the overall performance of an NFP is determined by how well it achieves its mission or purpose, only 50% of directors believe their organisation measures this effectively.

     They need regular operations reports to tell them if they are efficient, effective and sustainable.

     Information that tells them if their strategy is achieving the organisation’s purpose or mission. This information can be tightly defined or more complex depending on the aims of an organisation.

     Directors want more non-financial information.

Board and CEO relationships

With the majority of boards believing the relationship between them and their CEO is ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ they also think clarity around the role of the board and the role of CEO is critical.

     Feedback mentioned that the most effective solution to establish clarity is for the occasional all-board and CEO evaluation.

     Boards can also be encouraged to visit operations and engage with staff so that perspective can be gained outside the boardroom.

     Sharing knowledge and having more open conversations improve common understanding of the organisation and build greater consensus about its direction.

There were also key findings in the area of Education which is changing significantly due to the move from education / state to private- governance models. Aged Care is also an area of constant change and with the demand for aged care services in Australia (and potentially New Zealand) to double in the next 35 years, maintaining financial stability and compliance with government requirements are the highest priorities of these providers.

Although Directors’ time commitment to their NFP organisation varied by size and sector, with an average of 20 hours per month being contributed by directors, the majority provide their time and expertise for free.

We only need to look at the experience of our own NZARCT board to realise how fortunate we are to have such committed and talented individuals working on our behalf. We also see examples of exceptional people working exceptionally, within their own charity or association, donating one of their most precious gifts - their gift of time. Where would our NFPs be without them.

For a copy of the full and comprehensive survey please click here and download from google drive


Omelettes Can Make You Generous!

The following was published in the NZ Herald 02/02.

Omelettes can make you generous.
Charity bosses and fundraisers take note. It's advisable to get potential donors in for breakfast before passing around the collection tin. That's because starting the day with a three egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to research into how diet affects behaviour.

 

Researchers have long known that eggs are brimming with protein and essential amino acids and provide us with every vitamin we need, apart from vitamin C. Now, though, researchers at the Leiden institute for Brain and Cognition in The Netherlands have found that a compound found in eggs acts on brain chemicals, including serotonin, to make men and women donate TWICE as much to charity. 



The research found that high levels of tryptophan, or TRP, an essential amino acid are found in eggs, fish and milk. It plays a key role in the production of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in mood and behaviour, including cooperation and friendliness. 


Evidence of Growth with an Association

As Trustees, we often hear of associations in decline and charities bereft of funding, however, there are those who are showing signs of growth. In one such instance we have observed that the success can be attributed largely to the vision and leadership of one person. 

As founder and initiator of the non-profit for which they represent they have founded a viable volunteer driven organisation that clearly serves the intended purpose. These individuals are not always highly visible, preferring to limit their on-going role, once the entity is firmly established, to quietly working in the background in support of a readily identifiable governance team. One such organisation is the New Zealand Trustees Association (NZTA) and its founder Errol Anderson.

Click here for the full article to see how founding one association has lead to leveraging into the formation of two other associations within a specific niche area of the market and expansion across the Tasman.

Errol Anderson is the founder of the NZTA and can take credit for having launched three stable incorporated membership bodies on both sides of the Tasman. Errol holds a formal qualification in Para-Legal Community Law and initially chose a career in corporate trusteeship before he founded the New Zealand Trustees Association (NZTA). His practical experience in the sector made him aware that while there was active participation from mainly law and accountancy qualified practitioners, there was no recognition of ‘trusteeship’ as a professional specialisation or an educational pathway for lay-trustee to professional status.

Errol recognised there was a need for peer appraisal for trustees by trustees. Leveraging off his growing number of contacts, he formed the NZTA in 1995 and has been instrumental in its further growth in membership and profile ever since. 

He recognised that his newly formed trust and membership association needed to meet a public benefit. This supported his identification of a need for those in the role of Trustee to be self-regulated and trained, using information sharing as a major contributor. The Trust currently operates a help-desk facility to handle specific enquiries and deal with disputes – this is well supported by the membership (practitioners in the discipline, serving trustees and estate settlers). 

In addition to a monthly members’ newsletter, NZTA maintains a user-friendly website that gives a good overview of its structure and facilities. As such it contributes much to the visibility and functionality of the organisation. With Errol’s leadership, the New Zealand Trustees Association has grown from small beginnings in Milford on Auckland’s North Shore into the strong entity it is today. 

Building on the success achieved in New Zealand, Errol recently founded its Australian counterpart the Australian Trustees Association (AUTA). Consequently, he also saw the need for representation and self-regulation in the unit titled property sector. This resulted in his latest achievement, the setting up of the Queensland Body Corporate Association.

When asked of the similarities between trusts and bodies corporate, Errol said “The similarities are certainly there in a broader sense. When we look at structures of board/owner/assets to trustees/beneficiaries/assets with comparative limits of liability for strata board members & trustees, there are similar powers and duties of care. There are also similar beneficial interests to be considered, with assets held for the benefit of a definable group, and importantly an over-riding desire to function harmoniously within a legal framework.”

Errol belongs to a select group of association executives and trustees, who are making their mark in an industry that can no longer depend on traditional forms of governance and management to be acceptable and play a meaningful role. In order to compete successfully with commercial service providers, membership-based organisations need to adopt business-like practices to survive and prosper while forever remembering that the Members are paramount. We think NZTA and AUTA are good examples of achieving the transition with leadership as a driving force.

Resource: NECA (WA) doubles membership

By Kyle Katusi

From time to time, we come across articles that we feel would be of benefit to you in their entirety.
We credit the author and source and do not alter any content of the article.
Please click here to open the PDF