On Tuesday 15 April, Inyathelo hosted the first of its free monthly "Get Resourceful" sessions at the Inyathelo Resource Centre in Woodstock. This month’s topic, “Governance Structures and Practices!”
At first glance, it would seem difficult to generate much interest in so bookish a topic. But the 36 attendees from Cape Town’s NPO community would likely disagree. Governance can be a vexing issue for some organisations, especially those who were founded out of need and passion, but built without a great deal of legal guidance.
There was plenty of portable wisdom on offer, as Inyathelo Programme Director, Gabrielle Ritchie (Gaby) and Project Co-ordinator Janine Ogle presented on the topic of governance, before taking questions from the audience. When the subject of governing boards came up, Gaby explained that the skills needed from board members for a new NGO are very different than skills needed for an established organisation. New organisations, for example, often need very hands-on involvement from a board member.
When it comes to recruiting board members, Gaby’s advice was to seek out specific skills rather than “names.” This runs counter to the popular practice of asking the big names in the sector to sit on your board, thereby lending your organisation instant credibility, or so it is hoped. In reality however, celebrity board members rarely attend meetings or input into the organisation in any meaningful way. They simply don’t have the time.
Janine spoke specifically about the Code of Governance for South African NPOs. She pointed out that the idea of governance is not something new. Indeed, for a nonprofit to function they are probably practicing governance in some form or other. Janine did suggest however, that carefully going through the code would help your organisation identify those areas that need work.
Thankfully, it wasn’t only those in attendance who benefited from the session. After the presentation Inyathelo hosted a real-time Q&A on Twitter. The proceedings will also be broadcast on CTV (watch this space for dates and times).