Articles written By Vera Visevic
At the time of writing, Vera heads up the Sydney Not-for-Profit, Human Rights & Social Impact team at Mills Oakley. Acting for numerous charities, religious and not-for-profit organisations, Vera has 30 years’ experience in the legal profession.
In her work, Vera is well recognised for her expertise in assisting clients with governance and fundraising issues, restructuring and mergers and regularly advises on constitutions and ACNC/ATO endorsements. Vera has written several academic works, including a chapter within ‘Charity Law’ (2012, 2016 and 2018) published by Thompson Reuters.
Vera sits on numerous charity boards, associations and committees including the ACNC Professional User Group, the Community and Consumer Consultative Group, Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW, Everyday Justice and CatholicCare, Diocese of Parramatta.
Strategy – Is it really that difficult?
In recent years, serious concerns have been raised by governance experts and public inquiries over the amount of time spent by NFP boards monitoring the day-to-day operations of their organisations at the expense of driving long-term strategy.1 There are a number of reasons directors may have felt constrained to a short-term outlook, including their organisations being under-resourced, heavily reliant on grants and donations and staffed by volunteers and employees of varying levels of experience.
The Rise of Technology During the Pandemic – A Double Edged Sword
The impacts of COVID-19 are continuing to be felt across all industries and the charity and not-for-profit (NFP) sector is no exception. Sudden lockdowns and disruptions to service delivery forced charities and NFPs to embrace technology as one of the only ways forward. Whilst technology can improve efficiency, foster collaboration, expand opportunities for growth and help organisations better deliver services, it is a double-edged sword. Cybersecurity incidents have soared during the pandemic with charities and NFPs being a prime target.
Compliance and Creativity: the strategic obligations of directors
One of the main roles of a not-for-profit (NFP) board of directors is to develop and cultivate a long-term strategy for the organisation, which furthers the objects of that organisation.1 Despite the fact that directors appreciate that strategic planning forms part of their role on the board, directors often err on the side of caution when strategizing, or avoid developing a strategic vision for their organisation entirely. Reasons for this include:
It would be hard to find a business that did not place customer-centricity as a priority and not-for-profits have in recent times started to catch on. However, customers for many not-for-profit organisations will differ from that of a for-profit organisation. For not-for-profits, the “customer” could range from the beneficiaries of the organisation, to their supporters, stakeholders, members or clients. Customer-Centric Constitution Customer-centricity will often require a cultural shift, and fundamental to any sort of cultural shift in this sector is an organisation’s documentation.
Cybersecurity – Is This a New Directors’ Duty?
When not-for-profit organisations hear about cybersecurity issues and big data breaches in large international companies such as Facebook and Target, they often make the mistake of assuming that issues surrounding cybersecurity will not apply to them. The reality is that not-for-profits are very popular targets for cybersecurity attacks. This is because they often hold a ‘goldmine’ of sensitive information, while also being less equipped to protect themselves from these threats.
A Merger By Any Other Name Is Just As Sweet
‘Mergers’ are becoming a commonly discussed topic in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector, and with good reason – they have the potential for long-term benefits for all parties involved. Our experience has shown, however, that it is common for NFPs to feel apprehensive about the prospect of merging since: boards and working cultures must be responsive and cooperative towards a merger; a proposed merger could be resisted, poorly received or opposed due to the emotional investment of board members, staff, members, volunteers and funders; and a merger takes careful and considerable planning, time and money.
Reviewing Your Constitution – Food for Thought
Your constitution (or sometimes referred to as your governing rules or charter) is the document that governs how your Not-for-Profit (NFP) organisation operates. It is a legal document — a contract — and its terms must be complied with at all times. Importance of your constitution Your constitution must comply with the laws that are relevant to your NFP organisation which may be the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), or the Associations Incorporation Act of your State or Territory.