The core of a society’s effectiveness comes from recognizing and protecting its core values. The Board of Directors is empowered to represent the moral ownership of the society – its members – and the chair of the board represents the collective views and decisions of the board. The board then delegates the management of its expectations to their chief staff officer. The protection of this simple chain requires adaptable governance – in other words the accountability, transparency, predictability in conduct, and the participation of directors in the decision-making process.
Some societies grow so wrapped up in executing their mandate that they inadvertently weaken their ability to do so. Failing to recognize the relevance of sound governance can eventually lead to an erosion of membership support, and thus the failure of the society.
Of course these areas are the responsibility of the board itself, and a wise and well-governed board of directors will ensure that the rules and principles it follows are regularly updated and adapted to changing times.
At Tourism Prince Rupert, our mandate is of course marketing our community to potential visitors. The board of directors is charged with approving an annual Marketing Plan & Budget, setting out activities for the forthcoming year based upon our progress against the Prince Rupert Tourism Plan, and monitors performance against the Marketing Plan throughout the year. Operations of the board itself are guided by a TPR Board Governance Policy, updated annually, and through comprehensive board orientation sessions following each annual general meeting.
However, even in a society as cautious about governance as this, one nagging detail had recently troubled the board. The constitution and bylaws of the society were written in 1999, before the society took over the duties of the old convention and visitors’ bureau. Although they were carefully thought through at the time, they did not always reflect the actual activities of the society as it developed over time. Some clauses referred entirely to launching the society in 1999 and were no longer relevant, and in a few cases the old bylaws even contradicted themselves.
At the end of the 2010 visitor season the board of directors struck a subcommittee to review the constitution and bylaws. They began by collecting similar documents from other destination marketing organizations, and comparing these back to our original constitution and bylaws and to the current governance policy and other internal guidelines. It soon became clear to the subcommittee that both documents would have to be almost entirely rewritten.
Over the course of the winter the subcommittee broke the constitution and bylaws down into sections and rebuilt it. Every aspect of governance was reviewed and made consistent with the governance policy. The day-to-day operations of the board were streamlined through such modernizations as allowing for electronic decisions between traditional board meetings. All aspects of the society’s business were scrutinized and where necessary rewritten to ensure that Tourism Prince Rupert continued to operate in the best interests of its membership. The results will now be presented to Mayor and Council, and then submitted for approval to the general membership at our annual general meeting this spring.
Sound governance allows a board to manage real or potential risk through effective best practices and standards. With clear vision and concrete objectives, a board that believes in systematic planning, monitoring and evaluation will always lead to a society that governs for results.