Skills in Focus


Skills in Focus

All organisations irrespective of whether they are publicly listed companies or a mum and dad business take stock on what skills they have, and what they might need in the future in order to support their business. While skills can come from within, via up-skilling, or bringing in external expertise to compliment requirements, organisational culture might also be an important factor – requiring “fresh blood” or “different thinking”.

Charities and not-for-profit organisations like yours have to consider these aspects too to enable better organisational sustainability& effectiveness and create a bigger impact in our community.

How do I know what I need?

A Skills Matrix can help organisations to focus on aspects of their business and the broader strategy of where they are going. It’s an opportune impartial way to review a board or executive team’s composition by looking at the jobs that need to be done and what talent is available to help you succeed. There are a number of ways to do this; some involve engaging the expertise of governance experts & consultants. But if that doesn’t fit your organisation’s budget or size, try these simple steps to get on your way;

1.      Consider any legal requirements in your organisation’s constitution. This should highlight how many members you should have on your governing council or board,and could include required skills. It should also outline how these people can be engaged or appointed, and for how long.


Your organisation may require a community member to represent a key stakeholder group at the board level. This might come from a nomination process and community vote, with the appointment lasting 3 years.


2.      Your organisation’s purpose is likely reflected in any business strategy – as this is your day to day activity. From this, you can consider a time line for the short term, medium, and long term, and develop a list of tasks/actions/activities that need to occur in order to fit in with the plan. This might help you identify existing and new areas that may require high level knowledge or networks, or operational experience at the executive level.


A new donor engagement strategy may require some expertise at a board level to help guide and focus operational staff.

3.      Consider your existing talent, what skills they have, and at what level. This can be completed via a relevant team member’s assessment of them, or sending all talent a short survey to complete. This should help you discover any gaps your organisation may have in specific skills. Don’t forget that soft skills are just as important as formal qualifications.


Your organisation may deal in heavily regulated and sensitive areas like child protection. While you may have one board member with expertise, it may be prudent to recruit or up-skill another in order to allow for robust discussion,a different perspective, and more considered strategic decision making.


Creating and using sub-committees are another solution which allows greater flexibility with recruiting outside volunteers/talent.


 4.      Further to the previous point, any measurement/grading of skills should be as simple as possible. Some management experts grade personal competencies on a scale of 1-5; where 1 is none/low skills and 5 is expert may create survey biases as some cultures or genders tend to under (or over) estimate their abilities.


Having a scale of 1-3 where 2 is competent, and 3 is expert with some suggested definitions can be helpful.


5.      Check with subject matter experts on whether certain skills are really required,and at what level. You may think you need something specific at board level,but that might be something that can either be contracted, recruited, or added to a sub-committee.


While every medium sized or larger ACNC registered charity is required to submit financial reports that have been either reviewed or audited, it doesn’t necessarily mean a charity’s board needs an auditor on it. Instead, if it is a review, it may be a volunteer to the organisation. If it is a formal audit fora larger organisation, it will be contracted out to an independent supplier. More information on audits can be found here:


6.      Once you have identified legal requirements,jobs, skills, and capabilities – It is now time to look at any gaps and then whether they need to be filled at a board level or elsewhere.


While this seems like a process, once you have done this, it should be a lot simpler next time. Having a process in place increases transparency and confidence that the right people are leading your organisation. Board skills matrix should be reviewed at least annually.