Book Review

IMHO: New NFP governance book worth your time

By Steven Moe

OPINION: There are few books written in New Zealand on governance and even fewer have a focus on charities.  

So it was a pleasure to read Getting to grips with Not-For-Profit Governance by Pierre Woolridge.  It came out at the end of 2023 and is written as a self-described “snappy book”.  Despite the short form (141 pages) it still manages to cover a wide variety of topics.

These include areas such as inductions, meetings, agendas, strategic plans, policies and risk management.  There are examples of key points in each area and the book is divided into eight chapters.

The writer focusses his advice on those joining a board of an incorporated society.  This means some of the content is specific to those types of entities.  However, the principles apply just as well to charitable entities and even extend to for-profit board situations.

As it is, “especially written for those considering becoming a board member for the first time”, those with years of experience will likely nod their heads to what is shared.  

Having facilitated the legal part of the IoD’s Company Directors’ Course for many years, it’s clear to me that most of us operate in both the worlds of charities and companies, so this resource would be relevant for us all.

The book has some key reminders, such as: governance being about oversight; the vision for the organisation is key; the need to be a team player; and trust and personal integrity are paramount.

The book reminded me of the privilege it is to serve on a board. I liked this comment about joining a board: “You work with the most interesting people whom you might not meet in the usual course of events, or who you might only meet fleetingly at a networking event or similar.  And of course, you have the opportunity to contribute to your organisation.”  Sometimes we can lose sight of the real reasons we agreed to get involved in governance and having interesting conversations and meeting people is high on the list. 

Despite the title being about NFPs, I was glad to see an acknowledgment early on of a term I’ve advocated we use instead: “For Purpose”.  Why do we continue to define an entire sector with a negative – “not” – and use that phrase in relation to “for profit”, as if that was the most important thing for an organisation to aspire to. Surely we can move away from that phrase and focus instead on the purpose of what these groups do instead? 

I’d recommend this book particularly for anyone just starting their governance journey.  For those who have been active in governance for a while, it’s still got some good reminders of things we all need to consider.  Good governance isn’t something you master, it’s a continual learning journey and this is a resource that can help many continue to grow. 

About the author

Steven Moe MInstD is a partner at Parry Field Lawyers based in Christchurch and works in corporate law providing advice to companies, not-for-profits and social enterprises.  He is on five boards and for one is chair – Community Finance, which has raised $93 million for social housing.  He is a member of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, the XRB Advisory Panel and hosts Seeds - a podcast with 300+ long-form conversations on governance, leadership and entrepreneurship. Steven is also a facilitator on the Company Directors’ Course.

Parry Field Lawyers offer a wealth of articles, guides, videos, FAQs and links to upcoming free seminars, for those interested in the For Purpose sector. Incorporated Societies: Information Hub | Charities: Information Hub

NB The book review first appeared in the Director Download published by the IODNZ.