Governing Your Organisation

Every nonprofit organisation needs to have a governing body, which is the group of people who are ultimately responsible for the organisation and have overall control.

There is a difference between the role of governance (overseeing the work of the organisation), management (coordinating the work of the organisation) and operations (carrying out the daily work of the organisation).

The people involved in governance take on a leadership role in the organisation, ensuring that it remains focused on its long-term vision and has the resources to meet its goals. They have a responsibility to support and oversee the management, staff and volunteers involved in the organisation. They also must ensure that the organisation meets its legal obligations and that its finances are properly managed. Ultimately they need to ensure that the organisation operates in a transparent and fair way.

In charities the people involved in the governing role are always volunteers.  In community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises that are not charities it is possible that paid staff may sit on the governing body.

The role of the governing body of your organisation should be set out in your governing document (your organisation’s constitution, rulebook or deed of trust). The formal powers and the responsibilities of the governing body will be drawn from this document and from the law. 

Some Useful Terminology

Different organisations and structures use different words and phrases to refer to the governing body. Examples include:

  • Board
  • Steering Committee
  • Management Committee
  • Council
  • Core Group.

Again different terms are often used to describe the members of the governing body. Examples include:

  • Trustees
  • Directors
  • Committee Members
  • Council Members.

This group of people will often include officers such as:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Company Secretary
  • Treasurer.

Governance is a collective activity. Those who hold officer positions may have particular duties assigned to them, however, overall responsibility remains with the full governing body.

It is very important that there is always clarity in your organisation as to which specific volunteers are on the governing body. Everyone, both inside and outside your organisation, should be able to find out easily who is on the governing body. 

What is a Trustee?

We refer to the people who govern charities in Ireland as trustees. By law, they are volunteers. More information on the role of a charity trustee can be found here. 

Charities Governance Code

In 2018 the Regulator launched the Charities Governance Code - this mandatory Code sets out the governance standard that Irish charities need to adhere to. Charities are now required to report on their compliance with the Code as part of their annual reporting to the Charities Regulator.  Learn about the Code here and also about the work of the Charities Regulator here.  

How Can We Help?

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