Boards and management committees

Roles of the management committee

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General responsibilities of the management committee

There are some general responsibilities which apply to all members of the management committee. These include:

  • Ensuring that the association complies with its rules and requirement of the Associations Incorporation Act, such as those regarding calling and holding meetings. Note that under the Act, meetings must be held at least once in every four calendar months, but meetings can be conducted by using appropriate communication technology, such as teleconferencing.
  • Acting honestly and in the best interest of the association.
  • Exercising care, skill and diligence in carrying out their roles.

 

Committee tasks

Under the Act and/or the model rules, the management committee also has responsibility for some specific tasks, such as:

  • Ensuring a secretary is appointed.
  • Conducting the business of the association.
  • Giving consideration at least once a year to whether the association should take out public liability insurance. Note that if the association owns or leases land, or is a trustee of land under the Land Act 1994, the management committee must ensure it has current public liability insurance cover for the land.
  • Preparing the audited financial statement, if required for your organisation, and presenting it to the annual meeting, and then having it lodged with the chief executive.
  • Interpreting the meaning of its rules.
  • Ensuring the association has an address nominated for service of documents and that notice of the nominated address and any change in the nominated address are given to the chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading. Committee members should work to maintain and enhance the organisation’s unity and sense of purpose. Internal disputes which escalate can cripple the organisation and lead to its eventual demise.

 

Principles for creating a good working environment

Some important principles for creating a good working environment should be noted:

  • If you agree to be involved in a particular project or a sub-committee, be involved; don’t leave it to others to carry your workload.
  • Listen to what others have to say. Try to understand their point of view, especially if it is different from your own. The general aim of a committee is to arrive at an acceptable and workable mix of the suggestions that have been made.
  • Do your best not to invade another committee member’s authority. For example, if someone has responsibility for publicity and you have noticed that some opportunity or avenue of publicity has been missed, don’t launch into an attack. Talk privately, offering help and suggestions.
  • Support the legal decisions made in meetings of the organisation. Even those who have been opposing a certain course of action are expected to accept responsibility for the final decision and its implementation. However, if you have some concerns about a decision, you may wish to suggest an evaluation of the chosen course of action after a trial period.

 

President or chairperson

The president or chairperson has an important role as a leader within the organisation, as well as the legal duty of ensuring orderly and correctly conducted meetings. An involved chairperson and committee can give paid and unpaid workers a great deal of support and practical help. Where good communication exists, the organisation is stronger and better.

The chairperson will also take the chair at meetings of the association and be responsible for good meeting procedure. Sometimes the chairperson is also the organisation’s spokesperson. The role of spokesperson can be played by any member of the committee as long as everyone is clear who it is, and what the role means.

It is important to remember also that under the Act, every member of the management committee who is acting in the association’s proper business or operations is considered to be an agent of the association. In the role of representing the organisation, the chairperson usually signs all official letters concerning changes in policy and letters to workers, committee members, and government departments and so on. Such official correspondence should be held on record and tabled at the subsequent management committee meeting.

Note also that if the audited annual financial statements and associated documents are not lodged with the chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading as required under the Act, the president/chairperson is liable for a penalty.

 

Deputy chairperson

Some organisations include a position of deputy or vice chairperson. This person assists the chairperson and fills in if he or she is unavailable. It is essential that the chair and deputy chair have a good working relationship and understand their roles to ensure that duplication or confused direction does not occur.

The role of chairperson is a large and responsible one and there are many aspects of this work which can and should be shared with other committee members. Thus the role of deputy chairperson is largely the same as chairperson, but both people should share that workload as a team.

 

Secretary

Who me – a secretary?

Every incorporated association is required to have a secretary. Some are volunteers who are prevailed upon to nominate after an awkward silence at the Annual General Meeting with a bare quorum of members. If you are having second thoughts, take heart in the fact that tens of thousands of ordinary Queenslanders have been successful secretaries.

At the other end of the scale, there are secretaries who are the paid employees of clubs with poker machines and substantial business activities. As well as managing the operations of the club, such managers are required to perform secretarial functions.

This section is designed to assist both the volunteer secretary of a small club or association and the professional secretary of a large club. While the secretary of an association has no discretion about complying with provisions of the Act described in this book, many of the registers are purely guides. Secretaries should feel free to adopt and alter the models as they see fit for their association and the unique circumstances in which they find themselves.

Where does the secretary fit in?

There are three officers of incorporated associations who have specific responsibilities under the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Qld). They are the president, the secretary and the treasurer. The Act’s policy is to make the secretary the public point of contact. It is the secretary who is personally liable for many defaults under the Act.

The secretary is a key person in the success of any incorporated association. The secretary not only has the responsibilities set out in the Act and the rules of the incorporated association, but also unwritten obligations that will provide work for the secretary. A secretary should not assume office without an enthusiasm for the association that will last until the next annual general meeting, adequate time for the task, interest in committee work, knowledge of the association, and a good rapport with the president.

 

Treasurer

Role of the treasurer

While all members of the management committee are responsible for managing the association’s finances, the treasurer is generally charged with the task of ensuring that financial transactions are properly recorded and reported on. Note also that if the audited annual financial statements and associated documents are not lodged with the chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading as required under the Act, the treasurer is liable to a penalty (as are the president and secretary).

The treasurer presents financial reports at management committee meetings. It is important that these reports are easily understood by all the committee members because the whole committee is responsible for keeping a check on the finances of the organisation. Your group might need to organise some training for committee members to make sure this happens. Ask your auditor to recommend someone who can assist with this training. There should be receipts for all money received, evidence that it has been banked, and available documentation for all money paid out.

While the treasurer may not be able to do all these daily duties personally, it is the responsibility of the treasurer to ensure that good systems are in place to allow these tasks to be done efficiently and in a foolproof manner. Other tasks of the treasurer may include:

  • Making sure finances are well planned by preparing an annual budget and then regularly monitoring this budget to see that the organisation is staying within it.
  • Making sure that the books are up to date and in order – this means that there is a proper record of all payments and money received, and that accounts are reconciled at least once a month.
  • Taking reasonable steps to make sure that the organisation’s finances are arranged so as to prevent funds from being stolen or misused.
  • Ensuring that the necessary information and account books are ready for an audit each year and that an audit takes place.

Audit

Auditors will usually provide valuable information to the organisation about the way the books are being kept and the general financial position of the organisation. It is essential that the whole management committee considers this information and does not see the auditor as simply ‘checking up’ on the treasurer once a year. Your constitution will require an audit to take place at a certain time, usually so that audited accounts can be presented at the Annual General Meeting. The specific tasks of preparing financial reports and maintaining the financial record-keeping system may be delegated to volunteers or a paid bookkeeper.

 

Maintaining your committee

Supporting your committee members

Most people need a degree of personal satisfaction and appreciation of their involvement in the group to remain involved in a committee. Members of any group will usually welcome praise and appreciation for their efforts. Most will be volunteers and the material in the Community Door section on volunteer management may assist you in maintaining your committee.

Other ways to support and build your committee include:

  • Providing social contact through group social activities, either before or after a meeting, or on separate occasions away from the usual meeting venue.
  • Providing news on the continued progress of the organisation through an interesting newsletter or by telephone.
  • Arranging tasks or projects which suit peoples’ skills or their ability to learn.
  • Giving support for learning new roles. For example, an established committee member could be delegated to look after the new member for the first few meetings and to explain how things work and to answer any questions.

Remember, involvement generates interest and people need to feel included in the group’s affairs to remain a member. If you treat people as outsiders, they will be.

Developing clear plans and procedures

The first committee of an organisation has an advantage over all later committees because there is a clear and obvious job to do. Try to plan ahead your first year’s activities. Decide on your aims – who you want to reach, what you want to do, and how you want to go about doing it. In the beginning, try to pick essential and achievable things to do while you develop some experience and your organisation becomes established. Try not to work on too many things at the one time as your committee’s energy could be stretched to breaking point.

Organisations often run into trouble after the end of their first or second year. Sometimes the trouble is that the organisation has developed from a concern about a problem, but its members have different ideas when developing solutions. New members may see things differently from the founding members and this can lead to disagreements. The initial enthusiasm which led to the development of the organisation wanes as members battle with the everyday reality of keeping the organisation running. A planning session can help you get a clearer idea of what you want to achieve. Chapter 7 may also be helpful to review.

Good procedures in the handover from the old to the new committee are important so that the incoming committee can benefit from the experience of the previous one. An induction process should be available to all committee members and some suggested handover procedures include:

  • Prior to the election of the new committee, prospective committee members and office bearers are given clear information on what their role involves
  • Each new office bearer should have a meeting with the previous office bearer and also receive a copy of their role description to find out important information and details about current projects
  • Set up an information session about the work of the organisation and role of the committee, attended by members of the old committee, the new committee and the workers

Controlling the misuse of authority

All management structures are open to the possibility of intentional or unintentional misuse of authority and power. For an organisation to function effectively, it is important that members (and other people involved) are aware of appropriate uses of authority so that they can identify its misuse and take steps to deal with it, as necessary.

Consider some of the ways people exert and hold power in organisations:

  • They hold onto information in order to hold knowledge others do not have. This often means that they are more likely to be listened to and agreed with.
  • People accumulate responsibility over time and start to become indispensable. They are the only people able to do certain things and therefore other people listen and follow what they have to say.
  • People assume the right to tell other people what to do. This can be attributed to the traditional power relationships in our society and has much to do with a person’s “position” within the organisation. For example, the chairperson tells the coordinator what to do, the coordinator tells the staff what to do, the staff tell clients what to do, etc.
  • There are hidden power relationships such as the older person assuming the right to tell the younger one what to do, the Anglo-Australian worker telling the worker from a non-English speaking background what to do, and the one with the most experience telling others with less experience what to do.
  • People play power games. Power games may include manipulating, being bossy, being stubborn, throwing tantrums, sulking, or using emotional blackmail.
  • Without being consciously aware of it, groups sometimes develop structures and rules that maintain the existing power structure. These structures and rules are never explained to other people. New members in organisations are magically expected to understand the meeting procedures, sub-committees and hierarchy.

To mitigate some of these problems, there are ways to encourage greater participation and equality. These include:

  • Creating times, places, methods and opportunities which are specifically for the sharing of information. You could set aside time at meetings to exchange information or even have special information meetings. Another way is to develop background briefing reports on difficult issues before decisions are made. If you can develop a culture which requires written reports, then it is more difficult to retain, hide or control information.
  • Developing kits for new workers or management committee members including the history of the organisation, funding, role descriptions for staff and management committee members, aims, philosophy, policies and so on.
  • Establishing a “How To Do Things” or “Procedures” file where information on how to do things can be written down and kept. Include everything from how to do a referral, to locking the doors and windows.
  • Making information accessible and easy to read. Let everyone know where it is kept.
  • Making sure everything is recorded. Use task sheets listing who will do what and when. Plan and use diaries for the whole organisation so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing.
  • Ensuring that positions are rotated or have a limited term of office. This could be written into your rules. Prepare people to take over in the future by giving them the opportunity to act in a “vice” or “deputy” position. These strategies assist in preventing your organisation becoming a closed system which has no new office bearers or ideas.
  • Scheduling staff training so people learn new skills. Include a requirement for training participation in people’s job descriptions.
  • Delegating jobs to a sub-committee, e.g., the treasurer can work with a finance sub-committee. This helps demystify the knowledge of the “expert” and leaves less of a gap when they leave.
  • Using procedures at meetings which help people participate. Devise an agenda that everyone agrees on or regularly have a ’round robin’ where everyone has a say. Don’t forget that breaking into small groups shares information and helps decision making too. Whatever you decide to do, make sure everyone understands the rules and structures you decide to use.

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