3-9 Your Charter
An Orientation - Telling it like it is
Now you got 'em - what do you tell 'em?…
Ok, a volunteer walks in the door, or you have a new batch of directors elected at your AGM - where do you go from here? Of course, they will probably have some idea of what they want to do. A volunteer may have a specific interest - newsletters - group work - membership, you should be able to team them up with someone who can orientate them and work with them, at least initially, to help get them going. Some individuals may want to, (especially your new officers, who will have to) get in a little deeper than that. You may want to prepare an Orientation Package - which might include any of the following: -
- A blurb on you got started as an organization, and your history
- Past accomplishments
- Any current literature (guides/handbooks/brochures etc), and past newsletters
- Currently established plans/goals of the organization
- Your constitution
- A copy of The Societies Act
- Job descriptions
- Brief resumes of other directors/volunteers - experience/interests
In addition it is probably a good idea to ask them what 'success' looks like to them - and request they focus on specific goals for their term of office, or for the project they are undertaking. Request they read their job description, and consider any questions they might have. You may want to establish an Orientation Officer who coordinates and records this process, and who should subsequently follow-up, one on one, for feedback and renewal, at appropriate markers, 3 months, 6 months etc. into the term. It could be an occasion for a social type meeting, with the basic theme of getting everyone oriented for the year ahead, with everyone being supplied with their own orientation package, and having an opportunity to share their aspirations and commitments with the group. This reinforces our group identity, can help build a team spirit and create some personal warmth between people who are just getting to know each other. Then when we get into the serious stuff of debate and decisions at our board meetings, we will have somewhat of a basis of friendship or at least acquaintance with each other. Who really knows the secret of longevity…? How much of it is just basic human warmth and good will?
Now we've talked about what we do, and even made some commitments and plans i.e. actual tasks we will tackle. But what will really glue us together as an organization?; or what did we not do when it fell apart? This isn't talked about very much, but when you look at it, it really is the core essence of what really holds things together. Warmth and good-will. People embody it, and may not even realize they have it. Some others, perhaps more driven, with a particular agenda, may not have it, and may not realize it. If it's there it's usually because someone at the centre of your organization does embody it, and maybe becomes a role model; maybe they simply try to be inclusive; maybe they want everyone to be heard and respected; maybe the plan is secondary if it means that we spend the time to create a 'feel-good experience'. If it feels bad, who's going to stick around for the long-haul? Sure you can't please all the people all the time, but pissing them off all the time may not work either…
So we are really dependent on who shows up to do the work, and whether they embody these human qualities. Then warmth and good will may seem to naturally 'evolve' and it does become a warm and even fulfilling experience, as we work together. But at the same time we can certainly try to establish an 'ethos' for our organization, that really says clearly how we will treat each other as we do this work. Where do we do that? In our Directors and Volunteers Charter. This would be the wrapper on the binder of items listed above; it is an attempt to formalize that type of human informality and mutual appreciation that can build heart and soul into what we do. By itself, it means nothing, except perhaps to help clarify why things didn't work (We lost good-will…). You can't mandate good-will and warmth! But you can say, if we are to have an organizational ethos, it should be along these lines. See the next page for a sample charter. It may seem overly legalistic, but we do need to let individuals know their legal duties and liabilities.
Directors and Volunteers Charter
Welcome to another year at (Your name), and thank you for volunteering your time and skills! This charter is a brief orientation to the processes and approach we use to conduct business at (Your name). (Your name) is a registered society, and must conform to the requirements of the Societies Act.
- We are all volunteers interested in supporting the aims of our organization. We conduct business with decorum and respect for each other, and attempt to support each other and maintain good-will as we work towards our common goals.
- We recognize that each of us has a contribution to make, and we invite and welcome that contribution. Each of us volunteers for various roles, as our interests, time and skills allow, and attempts to fulfil those roles as best we can.
- Sometimes our personal lives call us away and we are unable to fulfil a task we have volunteered for; no blame is attached, and we collectively acknowledge each other's boundaries in this regard, and thank each person for the contribution made. Please let a director know in a timely manner if you are unable to fulfil a task.
- Monthly board meetings are held at directors homes, please give due respect and regard to that person's home environment and him/her personally. These are business meetings, not 'group processes' and dug decorum should be maintained. Anyone who fails to maintain the expected standard of respect for person/home may be rightly excluded from the meeting. Our whole organizational process depends on good-will, which is safeguarded in this way. If you cannot attend scheduled board meeting, please let a director know.
- The monthly board meetings are where the day to day operation of business tasks is coordinated. In addition we attempt to plan the future direction of our organization. As we debate specific issues, we try to achieve consensus, but recognizing the limitations of time, and diversity of opinion, we may resort to majority vote to decide an issue.
- There are many projects our organization could tackle; we are guided by our constitution, the AGM, membership surveys and open debate at board meetings to help us prioritize projects. In addition the Societies Act mandates certain tasks, such as an AGM, a membership list, and an annual report which must be accomplished.
- We invite those individuals who support our organizational aims to join us, to bring their vision, their passion and their energy to further our work and make a contribution of their time and skills. Conflict is a normal part of the debating process, as different individuals will bring different visions and philosophies to our organization. We value everyone's opinion and ideas; however choices must be made and we value more our mutual respect and good-will which allows compromise to be found. We recognize our limitations of resources of time, manpower and money. We rely on goodwill to allow us to find compromise and move together collectively to further the work of our organization, within the practical limitations of time, manpower and money that exist for us.
- If an issue is not successfully resolved at the board level, and good will is not maintained, we invite interested parties to consider the option of voluntary third party mediation. This is proposed as a fair and reasonable conflict resolution process. This again requires a willingness to compromise, and may help restore good-will and allow us to move ahead together as a group.
This does not abrogate a members rights under Societies Act, who of course may raise any issue at the AGM or call for a Special General Meeting if they feel the situation requires it. Ultimately any individual may make representation to the Registrar of Societies if they feel a society or its officers is engaged in untoward practices. Fraud or other illegal activities should be referred to the police.
- Please reference the constitution to understand the society's internal proceedings, and any appropriate legislation e.g. The Societies Act to understand the legal requirements of the organization and its officers.
Note that the directors of the society may be personally liable for the actions or negligence of the society. Consider directors insurance for your society. It is in your own best interests to know and understand your rights and obligations in this regard, and also so as to more effectively discharge your duties.
- If you choose to move on, or are unable to execute your duties as an elected officer, please submit a notification or resignation in writing, so that your name may be officially removed from the list of officers with the Registrar.