Helping a wilting flower to bloom again
“Ruth is an absolute professional, so clear, helpful and methodical. People opened up and were honest with her, which is so important when putting a review like this together. She took the time that was needed and was always available.”
Steven Lane, CEO, NAFAS
NAFAS, the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies, is a large national membership organisation that formed in 1959, with a prestigious London headquarters. However, the charity had suffered a loss from an anniversary event, which reflected waning enthusiasm among members and highlighted the need for remedial action in some key areas.
In 2019 Steven Lane, formerly with Lucy Air Ambulance for Children and Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, joined as CEO and, in response to concerns raised by the auditors, decided to commission a governance review.
“There was some confusion as to whether we just needed governance training, but a governance review was agreed by the Board. After 60 years the charity had reached a point where key factors needed to be sorted out. We chose Action Planning because of their track record in carrying out independent reviews and their approach seemed well suited to our needs.”
Steven asked us to carry out a full review of NAFAS’ governance, including the membership structure and the position of power in the organisation, which was electing new board members every two years without sufficient consideration of their skillset and the skills required by the charity.
Between October and December, Action Planning Consultant Ruth Dwight carried out a full review based on the Charity Governance Code. Her fact finding included a discussion with Steven and the outgoing President, interviews with all the trustees, a survey for the trustees and Steven to complete using the online Digi-Board governance tool and a skills and diversity audit.
Ruth compiled her face-to-face feedback and the Digi-Board data analysis into a report that offered a set of practical recommendations linking to resources. She also delivered a workshop for the trustees, which included training and facilitation of discussion in areas that were highlighted in the report.
This culminated in the board prioritising the recommendations Ruth had made to take forward, which focused around: roles and responsibilities of trustees; delegation of authority from board to sub-committees, members, staff, etc; value of and practice around diversity and inclusion on the board and membership; and value of stakeholder engagement in decision making to increase buy-in.
Ruth’s review ran parallel to a review of the Articles of Association, which Steven had decided to commission from solicitor Helen Harvie.
During the review process, discussions with Steven and trustees enabled NAFAS to implement some new initiatives and make improvements along the way. These mainly centred around strategy development, board / member relationships, board meetings and behaviours.
A key recommendation was to change the process for appointing board members, to enable the acquisition of requisite skills, and to extend the tenure beyond two years to improve continuity and allow time to properly address fundamental matters such as staffing, systems and contracts.
To address the question marks over the charity’s purpose, a strategy sub-committee was set up, working with key members to agree on a new mission, vision and values. A budget sub-committee was also set up to look at finance and, while waiting for the rewritten Articles of Association, Steven began working with new board to put in new processes and procedures.
Finally, the Board voted to sell the London HQ, releasing a substantial amount of money to support the charity as it builds back to a position of strength and purpose.
I very much enjoyed working with Steven and the NAFAS trustees, who were all very passionate about the work and future of the charity. The focus of the work was predominantly around roles and responsibilities and decision making procedures.
During my time working with the trustees, it was clear to see a positive shift in their role, as distinct from that of committee members and as strategic decision makers. The process particularly highlighted the responsibilities of the trustees and supported them to consider what is delegated to committees, how an overarching strategy guides the work of the committees and how progress is reported back to the board.
NAFAS has a great deal of potential and opportunity to reinvent itself for the years ahead and a strong governance structure will be core to this.