Strengthening governance critical for NFPs right now

Strengthening governance critical for NFPs right now

27 October 2020 By Jerome Doraisamy
Gregory Seeto

For organisations whose activities have come to a halt in the age of coronavirus, taking the opportunity to bolster processes may be the best way to ensure ongoing viability post-pandemic.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, there are countless organisations across Australia, including but not limited to sporting clubs and arts groups, who are “really hurting” right now, Gregory Seeto mused, by virtue of the fact that they are community-focused and have not been able to undertake their usual activities.

“We haven’t been able to go to those clubs to play footy on a weekend, which, that means membership fees, a loss competition fees, et cetera,” he said.

However, having such activities all but dry up does provide an opportunity for legal teams to focus on other matters across the organisation, he said.

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Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, Life Saving Victoria executive (governance, integrity and legal) Mr Seeto – who won the General Counsel of the Year category at the 2020 Australian Law Awards – said that there is an open window at present during which not-for-profit organisations can “really look at strengthening their governance and management processes”.

“I’ve seen quite a few clubs do fantastic work in that space, getting their strategic plan together and pulling together the things that may have been sidelined in previous years, because everyone’s been so focused on the day-to-day running and they haven’t taken the opportunity to just step back and say, okay, where do we want to be? Or what’s our purpose? What’s our mission? Where do we want to be in five years, time, three years, time, 10 years’ time?” he said.

“I think it creates a good opportunity for those clubs and not-for-profits, and I hope to have taken that and seen that silver lining.”

GCs and CLOs play an important part in refocusing on these processes, Mr Seeto stressed.

“One of the key things is redefining or re-understanding or re-educating people on your purpose of what your organisation is set up to do. Secondly, coming up with the strategies to make sure that that’s still achieved in the current circumstances, or a bridged or tailored version, all that is achieved. And, thirdly, it’s helping the organisation navigate through the complexities of it,” he outlined.

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“Here at LSV, we’re also an emergency service, and understanding the difference between a state of emergency and how that affects the organisation compared to a state of disaster and how that affects the organisation is key. One of the unique skills that many in-house lawyers need to be reminded of is that we have an understanding and appreciation of how the world and how organisations work, and how that fits into the regulatory or corporate framework, and helping organisations navigate through that is definitely critical.”

Those leaders of the legal team, Mr Seeto continued, have to help the organisation navigate the “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” that has arisen as a result of COVID-19.

For example, he suggested, “do you need to provide 50-page advice, or can you just stick with four-dot points or a diagram? It’s about working hand-in-hand with the business to navigate through that environment”.

“I see the GC role as an enabler for organisations,” he proclaimed.

“[They are] enabling best decision-making and enabling organisations to have the information and the knowledge and the details and the data behind it to make the best decision to navigate through that environment. And I think as legal leaders, we can play such a crucial role in helping the business understand that and help them navigate through that complexity.”

In the same episode, Mr Seeto spoke about the importance of corporate gap years, and why taking a year’s leave from his work as an in-house lawyer was the best thing for his career.

To listen to the full conversation with Gregory Seeto, click below:

Strengthening governance critical for NFPs right now
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