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Not-for-Profit: The perils of bad governance

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When a board of directors, senior staff, volunteers and members of a not-for-profit are marching to the same beat, an organization can do great things and win the admiration of the community at large. But when they fall out of step—for example, when the board loses control of the executive director, or the organization squanders the respect of its members or volunteers—things can go very wrong, very fast.

The Toronto Humane Society (THS) is a case study of a dysfunctional charity, and an excellent example of the high price an organization pays for slipshod governance. Much of the goodwill and financial support that the organization accrued has been lost among lurid stories of mismanagement, tortured animals and seized documents.

In April, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered that the THS hold a special general meeting of members on May 30 to elect an entirely new board (though previous board members can stand for reelection). And now in preparation for this election, three organized factions of the membership are back at it, vying for control of the embattled charity.

Defining the relationship between the board, staff and the members is one of the greatest challenges for a not-for-profit. And the best way to do it is with iron-clad, agreed-upon governance policies that clearly set out roles, responsibilities, processes, and limitations.

Not-for-Profit PolicyPro (NPPP) from First Reference features model policies covering boards of directors, board processes, roles and responsibilities, ethics and risk management. Follow the link for more information about NPPP and a 30-day trial.

Colin Braithwaite
First Reference Internal Controls Managing Editor

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Colin Braithwaite

Freelance writer at Colin Braithwaite Editorial Services
Colin Braithwaite has more than 20 years experience in writing and publishing. From 2004–2010, Colin was the Managing Editor responsible for the products in the Internal Control Library at First Reference Inc.Read more
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