It may be hard to explain governance, but you know it when you see it. Or when you do not see it. When an organization has structured governance, it runs well, especially during a crisis. When governance is not well structured, the organization will show inconsistent actions in its leadership decisions from both volunteers and staff.
The effort to get your governance organized takes time. Having your bylaws, policies, procedures, and record-keeping all documented, approved by the board (essential), and easily accessible protects you and the organization from that one member who wants to break things so they can claim they are a “disruptor” (you know who they are). Organizations that are operating consistently and successfully do not need disruption. IOM does a fantastic job helping the Executive understand what documents you need, how they should be structured, and what should be in them. Get that done first. Have your documents in place for the structural operation of the organization.
Have the administrative documents in place as well. Documenting the financial policies and procedures, the employee manual, vacation policies, and work flexibility schedule (if you have not returned to work five days a week) is necessary. These documents help the team know their area to operate in and how they can make those choices. It is crucial to have the board approve these documents.
Board approval protects your governance from future leaders who show up not knowing the history or they are and want to mirror their company or another board they serve on separately. The idea of “waiving a section” of a policy comes up, and Board approval is required. That stops changes from “group think” from happening. Robert’s Rules of Order prevent waiving any part of the Bylaws. Not being able to drop any part of the bylaws when desired eliminates “feel good” projects that will not produce impactful results from taking valuable staff time and budget resources from being wasted. Include “governed under Robert’s Rules of Order” in your bylaws. This statement is a protection when someone tries to go off in another direction and claims the bylaws do not prevent it. (If it does not say you can, they you cannot do something.) Robert’s Rules do not allow one section to be waived. The bylaws must be amended and approved with adequate notice and a vote by the board.
The importance of having your governance in place is vital. An employment contract is wise for the CEO due to the turnover of “bosses” in the volunteer Chair role. An employment agreement is how the CEO, and the organization will encourage each other to stay. Also, they detail how the two will part ways if it comes to that point. Be sure to know your contract. Benchmark among peers and mind the time limits of the agreement. As much as you advocate for the organization, advocate for yourself. Managing your governance is about knowing when you DO see it and acting when you do not.