5 Skills Required to be a Great Not-for-Profit Company Secretary

The role of the NFP company secretary:  NFP boards appoint a company secretary to facilitate corporate governance processes and support the operation of the board. The company secretary generally has responsibility for coordinating the administrative and compliance functions of the board, similar to those in ASX listed companies.  But in an NFP, the company secretary role is even more critical.

In Australia, the Company Secretary plays a pivotal role in supporting the Chair and non-executive directors.  It also plays a key role in supporting and working with the CEO and staff of the NFP.  In the NFP space the Company Secretary role is about relationships as much as it is about governance.

What kind of skills are needed from the NFP Company Secretary?

1 Listening

The number one skill a Company Secretary must be able to is to be able to listen.  And really listen, in that is about understanding what is being said; being able to understand the heart of the conversation and being able to distil that into meaning.

2 Multitasking skills

A Company Secretary has to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time: preparing for meetings while making sure that corporate governance compliance is up to date; supporting communications between management and the board of directors and collaborating with many people.

3 Organisational knowledge

The Company Secretary must understand the business and the context of their organisation. They must be able to translate governance theory into the appropriate frameworks, policies and processes for their organisation. The Chair will not only depend on the Company Secretary to bring compliance issues to the attention of the board of directors at meetings, but also to provide solutions for implementing actions. The Company Secretary must be able to develop and implement these in a way that their organisation can readily understand and comply with.

4 Planning skills 

A good Company Secretary must be ahead of the game, with plans in place at all times. This is essential, given that board and committee meeting cycles are schedule-driven and external and internal compliance obligations must be met on time. A CoSec must be good at project managing, because there are always several ongoing projects that will require their attention at the same time.

5 Building relationships

The most important skill of all! Company secretaries work with a diverse range of people – board members, CEOs, senior executives and often many external and internal stakeholders. Thy must have the ability to build effective working relationships on all these levels. They must possess discretion, diplomacy, tact, emotional intelligence and the ability to influence and build trust. The Company Secretary should be the one they rely on to offer impartial advice and be acting in the best interests of the organisation and its purpose.

If you’re a Not-for-Profit looking for a Company Secretary, or if you want to become a Company Secretary, please contact me. Right Source loves nothing more than finding the right person for the role and helping not-for-profits achieve their purpose.

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