Governing Your Organisation

Governance refers to how your organisation is run, directed and controlled; in other words it is about oversight.

The people involved in governance in your organisation have overall responsibility for how the organisation operates today and what it achieves over the long-term.

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). Essentially the people involved in governance make sure the organisation has a clear long-term vision, that the appropriate controls are in place to ensure all the work is done safely and correctly and, at the end of the day, they are accountable for the actions of the organisation should questions be asked.

In a community, voluntary or charity organisation the people involved in the governance role are volunteers.

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 is held collectively by the whole group at all times.

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. But their responsibilities and role in the organisation differs from other volunteers who might carry out activities on behalf of the charity.

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

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 must be ready to implement this Code in 2020. Learn about the Code here and also about the work of the Charities Regulator here

How Can We Help?

In this section of the website we explore various aspects of Governance for nonprofits, including the role of the trustee. Soon we will be publishing guidance on the roles of the Company Secretary and Chairperson. 


1. Charities Governance Code

2. role of the Trustee

3. charity Trustee Driver's License

4. Winding Up a Charity

5. Annual General Meetings