Five Good Ideas ®

Five Good Ideas about strong governance for strong organizations

Published on 20/01/2016

Increasing demand for services and declining revenues are characteristics shared by many non-profit organizations. Governments, who traditionally have stepped up to assist, are under financial pressure as well, and are downloading their responsibilities to service providers. In a climate such as this, getting the most from your Board is crucial in maintaining and growing your mission. In this Five Good Ideas session, Richard Powers looked at how a strong governance culture can assist this process. His Five Good Ideas addressed what the issues are and how we can deal with them.

Five Good Ideas

  1. Embrace increased transparency
    Organizations need to be able to respond to requests for information and be forthcoming in their dealings with media and donors. This is not about sharing confidential board information.
  2. Be aware of the need for increased accountability
    Following Good Idea #1 is the notion that organizations have to be more accountable to their stakeholders. This does not refer only to donors and funders but also to those groups charged with ensuring that the organization operates within the regulations and laws applicable within their sector.
  3. Pay close attention to conflicts of interest
    Direct conflicts of interest are usually pretty easy to identify. Indirect conflicts are more difficult. Just as important, the perception of conflicts of interest need to addressed with the same rigour.
  4. Determine the skill sets you need
    Regardless of the organization, strong governance requires particular skill sets. Representative boards are no exception. Determine what you need and get to it – where there is a will, there is a way.
  5. Go for commitment and engagement
    Governance isn’t a hobby, it is hard work and it takes time. So rather than resume building, board members should consider what they are really passionate about and don’t overextend themselves.

Five Good Resources

  1. Imagine Canada: a national charitable organization with the goal to strengthen the sector’s collective voice, create opportunities to connect and learn from each other, and build the sector’s capacity to succeed.
  2. The Chartered Professional Accounts Canada (CPA) website lists a number of articles in its “20 Questions” series.
  3. Institute of Corporate Directors: a “go-to” resource for Canada’s directors and boards.
  4. National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD): association that describes itself as helping more than 17,000 directors lead with confidence.
  5. Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE): national organization with a primary focus on serving the needs of association professionals and the business members who provide vital products and services to support the non-profit sector.

Richard Powers

Associate Dean at the Rotman School of Management

Rick is Associate Dean at the Rotman School of Management. After receiving his MBA and LLB from Queen’s University, Rick worked as a corporate lawyer for a national Canadian law firm. He later served as Corporate Counsel for Honda Canada Inc., before joining the University of Toronto. After teaching and serving in several administrative roles at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, Rick joined the Rotman School of Management in 2005. He has completed a 5-Year term as the Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Rotman MBA and Master of Finance Programs. Rick’s areas of expertise include corporate governance, ethics, business and corporate law, strategy and sports marketing. A recipient of numerous teaching and student awards, Rick received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Rotman School of Management in January, 2013. An internationally recognized expert in both corporate and not-for-profit governance, Rick is the National Academic Director of The Directors Education Program and the Not-For-Profit Governance Essentials Program (in partnership with the Institute of Corporate Directors – ICD). He also teaches in Rotman’s Executive MBA, OMNIUM, MBA and Executive Education Programs. He is a director of several not-for-profit organizations and frequently comments on legal and governance issues in various media across Canada.