He said 'The new governance made a difference'

The benefits of great governance made it to the BBC breakfast show business slot yesterday.  What a change from the gloom of all the stories about boards malfunctioning or in meltdown!

In an interview about the turnaround in the fortunes and future well-being of the Co-operative Group their Chief Executive, Richard Pennycook, stated that they owed their achievements to their refreshed governance arrangements.  The excellent new board that had been put in place had been able to power their new strategy forward .

With its 170-year history, this very mature membership organisation was facing a very bleak future – or perhaps no future at all.  Then its new Chief Executive decided to fundamentally re-examine what the organisation was doing and how it was doing it.  Not an easy task and it didn’t happen without a fairly noisy soundtrack.  However, as a result, the governance structures and processes underwent a somewhat radical ‘refresh’.  The results have been more than impressive, taking the organisation out of decline and probably into a very positive future.

Obviously this is not the only membership organisation with a very long history but it is this very maturity which can pose the greatest challenges in how to meet member needs and try to exceed member expectations today.  Staleness and the effects of ‘but we always do it this way’  can be very difficult to counter.  It can take some bravery to face the fact that a review must be the way forward but the results, as we can see, can be outstanding.  Your members will certainly thank you.

If your organisation has reached that point then delaying the inevitable can be costly. So, if you need a place to start, just pick up the phone and talk to someone external and completely unbiased who will be able to help you make a start. Or you may like to try our  "Non-Profit Health Check Quick Quiz" before you call.  Either way, you will be making a great start.

"The GGF Group had grown rapidly and our governance and structure had not kept pace.  We approached Susie Kay from The Professionalism Group to assist us to move forward.  Susie’s knowledge and experience in the field of Trade Federations was invaluable.  Her pleasant and approachable manner meant the employees were at ease and spoke freely to her allowing her to reach her conclusions.  Her advice and guidance has been invaluable and it has allowed us to commence the process to make the necessary changes to our governance and operations to allow us to proceed.’   Nigel Rees, Group Chief Executive, Glass and Glazing Federation

Change, however small...

This blog post is written in my alter ego of "Wise Owl" guest blogger for the MemberWise Network Blog.   These articles are written with the Chief Executives, senior managers and staff of non-profit organisations in mind.

At this time of year we all see and receive endless numbers of tweets and blogs reminding us that this is the time of year to make resolutions which will make us better, happier, healthier in the coming year.  The inferred threat is that we will only be successful if we do it all NOW.

There is some very well-meant advice at the heart of these reminders, the belief that we can look forward to improvements of all kinds if we, as individuals or organisations, can implement change.  However, that is where most good resolutions come apart because most of us, quite naturally, find altering the status quo incredibly threatening and are consequently quite resistant to the idea.

The most interesting element of making changes that is often left unidentified is that improvements can be found by making the smallest of changes.  Our resolutions and our need for change need not be about promising ourselves or our colleagues that fundamental differences will happen following sweeping changes.  The most valuable change can happen with only the slightest effort and following the smallest adaptation. 

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WANTED – Brave, forward thinking NfP organisation

Back in 2008 Kevin Kelly put forward the idea of 1KTF – One Thousand True Fans (http://bit.ly/2PQqaE) – as the sustainable number of individuals required to support an artist to survive by buying their artistic output or products directly.  These fans are, in turn, surrounded by much larger numbers of Lesser Fans who are not quite as devoted but can be persuaded to get involved.  One of the ways in which this works is for fans to be involved in pre-financing, where the artist makes a statement such as “When I get £xxx in donations I will release the next novel in this series”. This should translate really well as a fundraising route for professional associations and membership organisations which already have a dedicated fan base - their membership.

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Professionalism at work in the holiday season

Just as I was settling down on the train yesterday for a nice relaxed ride home, I overheard the lady next to me say to her travelling companion ‘Did you know Christmas Day is three weeks tomorrow?’  Talk about panic stations!  Am I ready – I am not!  Have I done anything about anything – I have not!  This has all the makings of a Christmas Eve whirlwind  but I have pulled this particular rabbit out a hat before so I am not overly worried.  Not just yet anyway! Organisations, however, need to be just a little bit more prepared and, in difficult times, will hopefully have been a bit inventive this year on the thorny question of  WHAT  TO  DO ABOUT THE  CHRISTMAS  PARTY.  An interesting subset of that discussion will also have revolved around bonuses or rewards for a year of effort and, hopefully, successes.


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The volunteer's new clothes - with apologies to the emperor!

For those of us who work in the not-for-profit sector, either as salaried employees or as committed volunteers, there was probably a moment when we made a choice – nfp or commercial – and the potential reasons for those choices are too many and various to list. For volunteers the years of involvement with a particular organisation or charity will pass quite quickly.  In the first instance it is interesting and exciting and it feels privileged to be on the ‘inside’, with your voice being heard and, hopefully, your opinions being valued.

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Applause, choices and cautionary tales

In earlier blog posts I have talked about the choices that organisations must make at the moment, examining their current structures to provide the best possible support to members.  Current discussions about how professional associations and membership organisations can survive in the current climate mean that there has been a slow realisation of the danger presented by several key factors.  The impact of current economic realities on members’ wallets;  the impact of new social media providing alternate communication routes which can bypass formal organisations; the negative impact of very public failures of professional standards; changing demographics; all of these are leaving some organisations exposed to falling membership numbers.


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Fairer access - Time to bite the bullet

Congratulations to Alan Milburn on opening up a laudable cross-sectoral discussion about what our childrens’ futures could be.His newly published report (Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions) provides some important statistics about current and historical routes into the professions and offers a large number of conclusions and recommendations.

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Standards not noise

In the last few years the advent of an assortment social media applications has meant that many professional associations have been quick to see the possibilities offered by these new communication and networking routes and have begun to utilise as many as possible. They offer obvious benefits and opportunities to access large numbers of people, elicit opinions or motivate through almost instant communication of ideas. Yet it is worth questioning how many of these organisations will have taken the time to identify the strategic intent or benefit of these activities, both for the organisation and for the membership as a whole.

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Reflection not Procrastination

Is this a scenario you recognise? When faced with a task of significant importance or having trouble putting pen to paper, the most menial tasks or distracting activities are suddenly intensely appealing – anything which puts off the dread moment when you actually have to bite the bullet and START.

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