Honest, regular and useful communication between a governing body, and its managers, members and stakeholders is essential for achieving an organisation’s goals. It is also important for staying legitimate and accountable.
Your members and stakeholders need a clear view of how the organisation is going and what the plans are for its future.
They also need to know that the governing body is working in the best interest of the organisation, and meeting its cultural, legal and ethical obligations.
An organisation’s rules and funding agreements usually set out how the governing body should communicate and with whom.
You will find more information on governing policies and rules in Topic 6.
5.5.1 Managing information coming in
When there is poor internal communication within an organisation, it will begin to head in directions that are contrary to the governing body’s policies and overall vision, and contrary to good accountability to its members and external stakeholders.
A critical role of management is to collect relevant information, analyse it and communicate it effectively to the governing body, members, staff and other stakeholders.
Sound decisions depend on receiving enough reliable information to be able to assess risks and make an informed choice. That means you need processes that work for you to convert varied information into sensible advice and options.
Two useful approaches include having:
- well-researched, simply laid out, plain English reports (verbal, visual and written) presented by managers to the governing body, giving accurate information, options and suggestions
- effective consultation methods for seeking wide-ranging views, focusing in particular on getting information and ideas from the people most affected by the decision: your members.
5.5.2 Communicating out
As trustees and stewards of resources and finances, the governing body and organisation must communicate regularly with members, listen to their concerns, and report decisions, progress and outcomes to them.
This includes reaching out and consulting widely with your members on important issues before setting strategic direction and making decisions.
When rumours take the place of fact, staff morale suffers and misinformation is spread out to members.
And when confidential board information is freely circulated outside the organisation, it can encourage division and conflict among members.
Transparency, accountability and legitimacy are all improved by communicating well. This means the governing body and senior managers should:
- give time for people to ask questions at community meetings and the annual general meeting
- create communication strategies to enable regular contact with members and others
- allow time at governing body meetings for members to ask questions
- hold meetings across the region
- publish reports in accessible formats and display decisions on community notice boards
- make board minutes available to members.
Because their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members are spread over a very large geographic area, many organisations are designing innovative solutions to communicate with them such as posters, visual diagrams, photographs, newsletters, email updates, websites and videos.
How VACCA reports back to community
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) was a Finalist in Category A of the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards. Here CEO Muriel Bamblett describes VACCA’s strategies to communicate with the community.