Board meeting

7 key areas for governance by community broadcasting boards

Danny Chifley, 13th October 2016
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Governance is the responsibility of a community radio station’s board. In a CBAA webinar, experienced community broadcaster and board member Bryce Ives gave an overview of some of the key areas of governance, encouraging current or aspiring board members to think about each.

Ives’ passion for good governance was clear, as he aligned it as fundamental to our commitment as community broadcasters. He also acknowledged that every board is idiosyncratic and different, reflecting the organisation it governs, and the diversity of stations can throw up different and complex governance practices. The work of a board is constantly evolving and never ending.

For Ives, the key is that everybody involved in an organisation understands the role of the board, and that all board members are very clear about their duties and what is expected of them.

The board has two crucial roles: 

1. Ensure that the organisation is meeting its mission and purpose

2. Ensure that the organisation has a vision for the future To achieve this, Ives outlined seven key duties of the board, which are shared in brief here: 

Create and uphold the station's vision and strategy

It is recommended that stations undertake a strategic planning process is every few years. This helps ensure that the organisation is able to adapt its strategies for serving its community of interest and learn from past activities.

A good strategic plan also gets the board, staff, volunteers and other key people to unite around a shared vision for the future, and safeguards the organisation’s mission.

As a rough indicator, a station should set 3 to 4 clear goals for what a station wants to achieve in the next few years. This should be documented and tracking against these goals should be included on the board’s regular agenda.

Bear legal responsibility

The board bears ultimate legal responsibility for the station and board members need to understand what is required in terms of compliance.

This may include adhering to requirements:

  • Under the relevant incorporated structure
  • As a not for profit and/or charity
  • Of the Community Broadcasting Radio Codes of Practice 
  • Around community engagement and the organisation’s legal mission and purpose.
Budget to achieve your station's goals

The board translates the station’s goals and strategies into a financial plan.

To do this, board members must understand what the station’s priorities are, what the station is working towards and how the station is tracking.

This is not about the board having a day-to-day role in expenditure and income, but every board member should have a sense of how the station is tracking. Ives recommends that board members should see financial reports each quarter.

Conduct reviews

Monitoring and self assessment of a station should be carried out by the board and can take many forms, including reviews and audits of:

  • Financial status, including independent reviews
  • Volunteer numbers, demographics and culture
  • Programming and the sound of the station Having a process of review acknowledges that organisations are not set in stone, and that new information can allow organisations to be proactive, and to develop and grow.
Induct new board members

When an individual is elected to the Board, they need to be made aware of their roles and responsibilities, and the history and mission of the organisation. This helps them begin to contribute from the beginning of their tenure. This can be achieved by developing position descriptions, which should be included with board member’s letter of engagement, and can be made publicly available as part of the station’s constitution and / or handbook. Knowledge needs to be passed on as part of board inductions and succession planning. Access to information and the retaining of knowledge can be achieved with practices such as comprehensive record keeping. Ives also recommends a shared email address that all board members CC when using email for official communications.

Appoint the station's manager

Under a best practice model, the board appoints an organisation’s manager, and that manager is not also a member of the board. This helps avoid any conflicts of interest that may arise where an individual is sitting on the board and is also responsible for ensuring the day to day management of the station.

If your station does have a manager that is also a board member, it is recommended that these conflicts of interest are explored, named and understood by all board members. The manager must also understand that when they are sitting on the board, governance is their key role and that their other duties should not be a guiding force in decision-making.

Manage the organisation's risk

A board should develop a good risk plan that considers all outcomes of the station’s activities and has clear strategies for how to manage them. For example, what will happen if your station doesn’t get that grant? Or doesn’t raise enough money during radiothon?

Risk management also includes ensuring that your organisation has up to date policies and procedures, and that these are available to all members of the station. 

Tips for good governance
  • Have a documented strategic plan to outline your station’s priorities and track your progress by including goals in your regular board meeting agenda. 
  • Have an annual station budget and review financial reports quarterly. 
  • Make sure your station’s policies and procedures are up to date and available.
  • Keep clear records of board activities. The more transparent you are, the more productive (and compliant) you’ll be, and this will also aid in succession planning.
  • Keep a copy of the station’s Constitution in the foyer and email copies out to your members, volunteers and staff each year.
  • Make sure new board members are inducted and understand their role and responsibilities.
  • Board meetings should not go ahead without a quorum.
  • Board members need to understand decisions before approval.
  • Seek ongoing professional development for your board members.

The CBAA has several template policies and procedures available that can assist your board. Please contact us to find out more – office@cbaa.org.au. This webinar is available to listen to in full.

This article was originally published in the August 2016 edition of CBX Magazine.

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