What is governance?

Boards and management committees are fundamental to the community services sector and provide the structure required for an organisation to fulfil the purpose it was created for.

QCOSS has developed a range of resources to support those in governance roles, including:

In the not-for-profit and community sectors, it is usual for board and committee members to perform their roles in a volunteer capacity. Individuals are drawn to governance roles for different reasons and bring diverse contributions with them to an organisation. Some people take on a governance role because they recognise they have important skills or knowledge to contribute, while others have a desire to give back to community in some way. Some people have rich lived experiences to inform the work of organisations or may have benefited from the work of the organisation previously. Whatever your reason for joining a board or governance committee, the values of the community services sector should be reflected through your governance role.

The Australian Institute of Company Director’s (AICD) Not-for-Profit Governance Principles provide a framework for not-for-profit organisations to consider what good governance looks like in practice. This includes the roles within a board or committee, and how that group will address things like conflict, organisational culture, risk and strategy.

Frequently asked questions answered

QCOSS interviewed governance groups across Queensland to hear more about their work. Through the videos, we see how the AICD’s Not-for-Profit Governance Principles underpin the work of governance groups across the sector, and how all of these principles contribute to a balanced and well governed organisation.

How do you build purpose together as a governance group?

Undoubtedly one of the most pivotal aspects of a governance group is leading strategy and purpose. It is the board or management committee who will bring the work of the organisation back to purpose and ensure the activities of the organisation are heading in the right direction.

In this video, Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good’s (DIYDG) Stacee and Semara speak about their experience of being young people establishing a new organisation, how they worked to build purpose together, and how they maintain a shared understanding of purpose across the board.

How does cultural leadership enrich governance?

To hear about the importance of cultural connection in governance roles, we spoke with Seleena and Ikea from the Aboriginal and Islander Development Recreational Women’s Association (AIDRWA). They say having cultural representation on their board is critical to the way they engage with stakeholders, contributes to strategy, and keeps the purpose of the organisation at the heart of what they do.

How does the board contribute to quality and compliance?

Abbie from Community Action Inc Gympie explains the value of maintaining quality and compliance measures as a governance group. The measures allow them to support the work of the organisation and enhance the work that their staff do. When the board or management committee of an organisation maintain quality, staff feel supported and proud of the work the organisation does.

What are the roles and responsibilities of the board?

It is critical for the board or management committee to be clear on what their role is and what they are responsible for. This risk management ensures the organisation stays on track, and within legal parameters.

For governing groups to work effectively, it’s crucial for those within the group to understand their roles and responsibilities as individuals, and collectively as a governance group. The way these roles are structured in different governance groups can vary, and is dependent on the size and constitution of an organisation.

In this video, Matt and Linda talk about what this looks like at QCOSS.

Frequently asked questions, with Greater Whitsunday Communities

QCOSS sat down with Greater Whitsunday Communities board member, Peter Tait, to talk about his many years on boards and in executive teams in for-profit and not-for-profit organisations.

Your most significant learnings as a board member?

What’s important to know as a new Treasurer?

What are some helpful tips to prepare for an audit?

How do we avoid financial trouble?

Avoiding fraudulent activity in organisations

Handling conflicts of interest

Guides on governance roles

Some specific roles identified on a board or in a management committee include the Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. QCOSS has developed some guides to these specific roles to support your understanding of the responsibilities you will have when taking on one of these delegations.

How does governance support organisational leadership?

Part of being clear about roles and responsibilities within a governance group is understanding how you work with the leader of the organisation. The dynamics within a group, past experiences, and how the relationship was first established can all influence the way organisational leaders work with the board or management committee.

In this video, Julie and Terri from Mareeba Community Centre talk about getting clear on how they work with one another..

Further support and development

Check out these resources for further learning:

Boards and management committees

In Queensland most not-for-profit community organisations are governed under the Associations Incorporation Act. This section outlines the governance of Management Committees for these organisations.

While the information contained in this section may be applicable to other forms of not-for-profit organisations there may be variations. Refer to the Governance for non-Queensland and other forms of not-for-profit organisations section for links to the appropriate government website.

Community Door also has information specifically about the differences between Queensland registered and Nationally registered not-for-profit organisations in the Start a community service organisation section.

For more detailed information on boards and management committees view the Community Door online governance eTraining or the free online Board Evaluation Tool created by the Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies.


Sub-committees are a way of distributing the workload of a management committee, and for making the most use of the expertise of the organisation’s members. In this way, people who may not have the time to serve on the management committee can be co-opted onto a sub-committee for a limited time to carry out a project. The role and responsibilities of a sub-committee and its relationship to the management committee should be clearly defined.

In setting up a sub-committee, remember the following:

  • It performs a specific task – such as reviewing staff salaries, preparing a submission or a budget, or looking after the grounds.
  • It should be small in size – often three to five people are enough.
  • Establish the sub-committee formally at a management committee meeting. Nominate one person to act as a convener to call meetings, and co-ordinate the activities of the sub-committee. It is a good idea to actually state that the sub-committee is responsible to the full management committee.
  • Do not take communication for granted. Make sure everyone is clear about what has to be done and who is going to do it.
  • Give the sub-committee specific written guidelines, time frames, duties and powers. This information should be minuted at a management committee meeting.
  • A sub-committee minute taker should be nominated. Minutes and reports of the sub-committee should be presented regularly at full management committee meetings.
  • Any action or policy recommended by the sub-committee needs to be approved by the full committee before anyone can act on that policy.
  • It is useful to set clear goals and time limits on the life of the sub-committee and to allocate specific funds or other resources at your disposal to enable the sub-committee to do its job.

Companies limited by guarantee – information for directors

Although we often think of a ‘company’ as being a for-profit business, a company limited by guarantee is a special form of public company that can be used by not-for-profits.

Companies limited by guarantee sit under the Corporations Act 2001, and are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

They use a governance structure with ‘directors’, but has ‘members’ instead of ‘shareholders’. The following factsheets contain information for directors of these organisations.

You can find more information on companies limited by guarantee in the Start a community service organisation section of Community Door.

Governance for other forms of not-for-profit organisations

Nationally registered companies limited by guarantee:

Nationally registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations

Queensland co-operatives

Queensland body corporates

Interstate Associations

Related Updates

Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership: Non-Executive Chair opportunity
Webinar: Board inductions and the roles of board members
Webinar: Structuring a Social Enterprise