Promoting Effective Board Governance for NGOs in Uganda

Sara Wilhelmsen

LMG Project Technical Manager

This story originally appeared on the Management Sciences for Health website.

Management Sciences for Health (MSH), through its USAID-funded Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project, trains executive boards in the practices of good governance — cultivating accountabilityengaging stakeholderssetting shared direction, and stewarding resources — to ultimately improve health outcomes. LMG’s interventions contribute to developing and fine-tuning executive board’s roles and responsibilities.

METHODOLOGY LINKS LEARNING WITH RESULTS

LMG’s Effective Executive Board Governance methodology launches board members and executive staff on a process of developing effective governing practices (mentioned above), along with leadership skills that will strengthen their capacity to face challenges and achieve measurable results. The MSH approach to governance development differs from traditional lecture-based training programs. It is a process for governing bodies to link learning to measurable organizational results. Board members then apply these learned practices directly through the exercise of their governance responsibilities. Says Karen Lassner Johnson, an LMG consultant on board governance:

We help executive boards face governance challenges in a way that better acquaints them with their governance roles and responsibilities as distinct from that of senior management, and helps organizations become more sustainable and better able to fulfill their mission.

UGANDA ORGANIZATIONS STRENGTHEN THEIR GOVERNANCE

LMG used its Effective Executive Board Governance methodology with two Ugandan organizations, a newly-formed think tank and a well-established institution.

THE THINK TANK: DEVELOPING BYLAWS AND BOARD POLICIES

As a young organization, all decisions used to be made by the executive director in consultation with senior staff, the legal advisor, the auditor and donors’ representatives as needed. As the organization grew, it established a new Executive Board.

LMG worked with this newly established board and consulted on the creation of foundational board documents: bylaws and board policies. The policies document included a code of conduct and conflict of interest policies for board and staff, board member expenses, budgeting, capital expenditures, financial control policies, financial audits, risk management, and board member fundraising.

LMG also conducted a session that focused on 10 basic responsibilities of boards and 50 practices of top-performing boards, which have helped the organization to govern more effectively.

THE ESTABLISHED INSTITUTION: BOARD GOVERNANCE HANDBOOK

With another Uganda-based, but well-established organization, LMG adapted the methodology and worked with a long-standing board of trustees.  

A product of the LMG’s support: a Board Governance Handbook. The handbook’s policies put best practices in place, adapted to the organization’s needs. Written specifically for members of the board to support their important service, the handbook aims to clarify and distinguish the board´s responsibilities and leadership from those of management. It also defines the expectations of individual board members, how the board operates, as well as board policy.

“To grow into a viable institution, we need to govern with the best possible internationally accepted standards,” said an organization’s director following LMG’s support. “Any institution will succeed or fail depending on the way it’s governed.”