The constitution of an organisation is the key document that:

Establishes the legal existence of the organisation as a formal body
Acts as the governing document, the rules by which the organisation will conduct its affairs
Governance is the process by which decisions are made about how an organisation is effectively and properly run.  It is usually focussed on the role of the governing body (the board, management committee, trustee body etc), but it is often helpful to include the ways other elements and stakeholders are involved in steering the organisation. 

Governance involves:
  • Responsibility for the mission and objectives
  • Approving strategies and monitoring performance against agreed plans
  • Awareness of the changing external environment and the organisation’s response to new challenges
  • Legal, financial and moral accountability for the work of the organisation
  • Reconciling the different and (often) competing demands of stakeholders, users/beneficiaries and staff
Business and action planning is a key process by which organisations:
  • Identify the objectives they plan to undertake to achieve the mission and the aims of the organisation
  • Identify the resources required to achieve those objectives
  • Identify the internal actions and process required to successfully meet the objectives
  • Can monitor and evaluate progress in achieving the objectives
 Effective management is a process designed to enable people to give their best and to get the best from an organisation. Its purpose is to allow the organisation to fulfil its aims and objectives, through the most efficient use of its human and financial resources.

To deliver effective and efficient management, organisations need to have in place appropriate management systems and procedures for ensuring that the necessary functions of management are undertaken in a manner that is appropriate to the size, style and function of the organisation.

Whilst every organisation is unique, and will have its own way of doing things, all organisations’ require certain key management functions to be carried out:
  • Managing teamwork and involvement
  • Developing and implementing policy
  • Setting and achieving objectives
  • Managing change
  • Managing time
  • Managing funding and other external relationships
  • Human resource management and development
  • Managing diversity
  • Managing conflict
  • Managing money
  • Managing administration and information
Management is not the same as administration (although they do overlap – in particular in small organisation’s) but crucially management involves making broad decisions and ensuring that appropriate systems and procedures are in place to implement those decisions, whilst administration concerns the day-to-day work of running those systems. Administration without management is inefficient and management without administration is ineffective.

Project Management, the management of a discrete and clearly defined activity, is not a distinct form of management; rather it is the application of specific management functions to that discrete activity.

Successful organisations also require leadership. The distinction between leadership and management is not clear, but leadership is critical in providing the dynamic to assist an organisation in developing its long-term vision, to motivate people and give organisations a sense of purpose.

All organisations require a combination of leadership and management, which is appropriate for their particular circumstances.


Proper financial management is essential to the health and effectiveness of an organisation. It should enable the organisation to make more efficient use of its resources and therefore provide the best possible service to its users.

Within an organisation, financial management can be broadly divided into two (overlapping) categories: financial responsibility and financial accountability.

Financial Responsibility
Financial responsibility incorporates:
  • Budgeting – being clear about what the organisation is committed to, or planning to, do over a period of time, how much it will cost and where the money will be coming from
  • Fundraising – the process of ensuring that the organisation has the funds to carry out its work
  • Risk management – not taking on activities or obligations that the organisation does not have the funding to carry out
  • Cash flow analysis – being sure that at all times the organisation has enough money to pay its bills on time
  • Record-keeping – keeping proper records and documentation for all the funds that come into the organisation and for all the expenditure that the organisation makes
  • Reporting – ensuring that relevant staff and the committee have accurate, accessible and timely information on the financial performance of the organisation
  • Monitoring – ensuring that regular reviews of income and expenditure are undertaken, and in line with the budget
  • Control – taking remedial action in the event that income and expenditure are not in line with the budget.
Financial Accountability
Financial accountability covers being clear about who has the right to know what the organisation is doing with its money, and how much control those people have over the financial decisions.

Securing adequate resources is a key element in the capacity of an organisation to fulfil its aims and achieve the specific objectives as set out in its business plan. The process of securing these resources is generally known as fundraising.

Voluntary organisation’s utilise a mix of funding from a variety of sources, including:
  • Local or central government grants or contracts
  • European structural funds
  • Grants from independent charitable foundations
  • Public donation (which includes events and legacies)
  • Payment for services provided
  • Corporate support (from either grants, sponsorship or marketing and ‘in-kind’ arrangements)
Small, and under-resourced organisation’s face particular challenges in securing adequate resources, including:
  • Lack of knowledge of funding sources and their policies, priorities and application procedures
  • Shortage of time to spend on researching and developing and writing applications
  • Lack of time to develop personal relationships with the administrators of funding bodies
  • Lack of confidence and/or expertise in presenting applications in the forms and styles required by funders
  • Difficulties in calculating the costs of work or activities to be funded
  • Complying with the monitoring and information requirements of some funders
Funding advice and support for organisation’s is often provided by second-tier agencies (such as local Council for Voluntary Services).
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Partnership, multiagency provision, and collaboration have become key for the development of strategies and the provision of services to tackle social and economic exclusion.

Increasingly, any new social policy initiative requires a multiagency, cross-sectoral partnership to be put in place to develop a strategy and oversee delivery and progress in achieving the policy outcomes required.

Small local community groups face particular challenges in participating in such arrangements, including:
  • The significant time commitment involved in participating in the formation of complex organisational arrangements and programme development
  • The difficulty of having any real influence on what partnerships do when the agenda is centrally driven, and the decision making process dominated by more influential agencies who have the resources to commit time and energy
  • The concentration of resources in major centrally driven initiatives can divert local resources away from lower priority or “fashionable” interests and concerns
  • By playing a role in such partnerships agencies can be at risk of losing their distinctive voice, submerging their aims and concerns, and ultimately losing their authority and legitimacy, alternatively they can remain outside and run the risk of being marginalized
A positive response to these challenges is for organisation’s to seek to participate in, or form, alliances or networks that can assist in advancing the small agency perspective, provide for mutual support and enhance the legitimacy of the participants in the partnership structures.

In looking at this area of an organisation’s capacity focus should be on:
  • Identifying networks that an organisation may already be part of, or those that it should consider being part of
  • Considering the organisation’s capacity and readiness for participation in partnerships
  • Identifying other areas of support that may be available to assist the organisation in developing networks and be supporting to participate in them.
For small grassroots and community based organisations, the value and importance of networking cannot be under estimated.