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How to be an effective charity Chair

Chairing a charity or non-profit is a tough and demanding role. Chairs make a huge difference to their organisation, either for good or for ill. Here are some tips about how to be an effective Chair. This how-to includes how to build a team, run good meetings, have impact and look after yourself.

Things you'll need

  • You'll need to be Chair or Vice Chair of a non-profit, or chair a committee.

Focus on the right things

There's a lot for Chairs to think about and potentially get bogged down in. Be clear about the big issues affecting the charity, prioritise and stay focussed. Make sure you, your board and the staff all have a clear and shared sense of purpose - and are focussed on achieving your charity's mission. Don't dodge hard decisions.   


Build a good team

Do you have the right skills on your board? Are the trustees representative of the community you serve? Are you using best practice when recruiting and inducting new trustees? 

Make sure trustees understand about their role / responsibility, both legally and what you expect of them.

Help others to shine. Create a culture of support and challenge. Encourage constructive learning from mistakes and underachievement, rather than an attitude of blame.


Build relationships

Take time to get to know trustees (in and out of meetings) so you can understand their skills, views and what they bring to the board.

If you have them, invest time in the relationship with staff and especially the CEO.


Run effective meetings

Put strategic topics at the start of the agenda and produce papers with clear expectations about what will be discussed and the decisions which are needed. Be clear about how decisions will be made.

Keep meetings to time and facilitate good discussions. Know when to close a conversation.

Make meetings enjoyable. Refreshments and a pleasant venue help create a positive atmosphere.


Grow as a Chair

Be clear about what you want to achieve during your time as Chair and plan how each meeting will deliver this. Pick your battles and remember that it is ok to ask questions. Learn from mistakes.

Know yourself - where are your strengths and where do you need support or help from others on your board?


Look after yourself

Find a mentor and know what support is out there including training and networks.

Set boundaries with yourself and others - review the time you are committing to your chairing role. Be clear with yourself and others how much you can and cannot take on. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It can help to have a Vice Chair.

Celebrate success. Remember to give yourself, your board and staff a pat on the back. Acknowledge hard work and celebrate achievements.

Further information

Please download our Chairs Compass guide which has lots more practical tips focussed on the role of the Chair.

Our events programme helps Chairs to network with their peers and build learning.

Our Beacon Programme for smaller charities is made up of events, workshops and resources.

For further information and support please visit the Association of Chairs.


Page last edited Dec 05, 2018 History

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