Five Good Ideas

Five Good Ideas about good governance in disruptive times

Published on 21/04/2017

Having a smart, creative, hard-working board is a major driver of an organization’s success at the best of times — but during periods of change or disruption it becomes crucial. That’s when any weakness in governance and oversight can crack the foundation of your organization. JoAnne Doyle of United Way Toronto & York Region shared five good ideas for focusing the work of your board to leverage the best of their leadership, and establish the right conditions for your organization to thrive.

Five Good Ideas

  1. Know Your Environment and Your Place In It
    Develop a deep understanding of your entire ecosystem. Yes, get to know your partners. But just as importantly, your competitors. What drives them, what value do they add, and what can you learn from their approach?
  2. Step Outside the Echo Chamber
    Being a little paranoid is a good thing. Gather insight from more than management by using third party sources like auditors, accreditors, community consultations, satisfaction surveys, complaint reports.
  3. Know the Rules and Play Within Them
    Build a solid understanding of the rules so you’re not caught flat-footed when it really matters. Pay attention to compliance requirements in privacy, cyber protections, etc.
  4. Recruit True Diversity
    Bring in diversity that represents a spectrum of cultures, ethnicity, gender, age — but don’t stop there. Diversity of experience and perspective is equally vital to a board’s success. Look for ways for clients to input to governance decisions beyond the board.
  5. Start Now
    The distance between the ideal board and the current state of your governance might seem far — but you don’t have to do it all in a day. The most important thing is that you make a commitment to ongoing board development and that you start right now.


  1. Harvard article: Non-profit Coherence Framework
  2. Imagine Canada accreditation:
  3. Diversity:
  4. CRA:
  5. McKinsey Article (a quick read):

JoAnne Doyle

Chief Operating Officer, United Way Greater Toronto

JoAnne Doyle is a Chief Operating Officer of United Way Greater Toronto. In her role, she oversees United Way’s business operations, organizational planning and governance functions. This includes building effective operational models that address global trends and challenges that shape United Way’s work. JoAnne also steers the integration of our work with United Ways across Canada and internationally. JoAnne first joined United Way in 2011 as Senior Vice President, Community Impact. In this position, she led and shaped a streamlined, community-facing department and provided leadership on United Way’s strategic initiatives, community investment and partnership building, research, evaluation, and public policy. Prior to her current position, JoAnne maintained the role of Chief Operations & Strategy Officer, where she oversaw core cross-divisional teams including Finance and Administration; Information Technology and Operations; Strategy, Research and Evaluation; Communications and Public Affairs; and Planning and Governance. JoAnne has deep roots in the community and social services sectors with expertise in community health. Through her independent consulting practice, she’s helped numerous organizations in areas such as capacity building, strategic planning, governance, and operations. A dedicated volunteer, she has held Board and Executive Committee positions for the Welcome Inn Centre. Her previous roles include Executive Director at the Guelph Community Health Centre and the North Hamilton Community Health Centre. JoAnne holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from McMaster University.