Managing Your Organisation

Managing a community and voluntary organisation, charity or social enterprise is a complex task.

In many ways, the challenges are very similar to managing a small or medium enterprise in the private sector. However the fact that the "bottom line" is not financial profit begs the question for the nonprofit of "what does success mean for us?"

Your group will need to know the answer to that so that management process and systems can guide the organisation towards success. Another key difference, compared to the private sector, is that the people who govern charities are all volunteers. As a result there’s an additional challenge in balancing governance and management.  

What is the Difference Between Management and Governance?

Governance is all about leadership and 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. It’s important that those involved in governance have a focus on the “big picture”, rather than becoming involved in making managerial decisions and day-to-day implementation of strategy.

The role of management is essentially to organize how the work gets done, and the operations team actually get the work done “on the ground”.

Keeping the lines between governance, management and operations clear is important but not always easy to do. Often there is very close inter-relationship between these different areas and in many community and voluntary organisations, especially smaller all-volunteer organisations, the same people may have a role to play in all three areas.

Find out more about Governing Your Organisation here.

Maintaining the Boundary Between Management and Governance

The larger an organisation is the easier it is to see these boundaries.

The governing body governs, the chief executive officer and senior management team manages, and the rest of the staff and volunteers engage in operations.

However, in smaller organisations, especially in those organisations without paid staff, it is easy for the governing body to get 'bogged down' with questions of short-term management and operations and to lose sight of the need to focus on strategy for the longer-term.

In these situations, it is essential to find an effective way of balancing the demands for governance, management and operations, which are all crucial to the organisation's ultimate success. For example it may be helpful for a sub-committee of the board to take on a day-to-day managerial role. This allows the governing body to focus on governance. Alternatively, the committee that finds itself governing and managing, may decide to ring-fence distinct time at meetings for management and governance questions.

As small organisations grow in size and begin to take on paid staff, it is vital for governing body members (who are likely to have been used to 'pitching in') to concentrate on their governance role and to allow staff to get on with the jobs for which they have been recruited.

How Can We Help?

In this section of our website we share some practical advice and resources to help you with the day-to-day management of your organisation. From figuring out your obligations under Data Protection legislation to preparing a set of SORP compliant accounts and from understanding risk management principles to finding legal resources.

  • You may also wish to explore The Wheel's Good Practice Guides, which give practical advice and tools to help nonprofit leaders in areas such as Risk, Collaboration, HR and Impact Measurement. (Please note: these guides were produced between 2007 and 2009, and so may feature some out of date content - they still are excellent overviews of the subject matter, however.)
  • Join our Member Networks so you can connect with peers in Financial Management, EU Project Management, Leadership, and beyond. 
  • Get specialist training on a range of management topics, from people and financial management, to GDPR and impact measurement. 
  • Log in to our regular series of free Webinars for Members - this series often features webinars focused on management and leadership topics.