The Association of Chairs today launches “A Chair’s Compass – a guide for Chairs of charities and non-profit organisations”, written by Association co-founders Ruth Lesirge and Rosalind Oakley.

The Association of Chairs is marking its first anniversary by publishing a new guide specifically for Chairs of charities.  Chairs have a vital and unique role to play in their organisations, yet there is surprisingly little written especially for them.

Written by the Association of Chthisisgoodwork-aocairs, the Guide has been developed in partnership with the Lord Mayor’s Charity Leadership Programme and with the generous support of City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity, and CCLA.

The Guide is being launched formally today at the Lord Mayor’s Charity Leadership Programme Chairs’ Conference at the Mansion House.

It draws on sector experience and consultation and seeks to fill a longstanding gap in the provision of advice specifically for Chairs.  Chairs, whatever their level of experience, can often find their role isolated, challenging and with few avenues of support or guidance.

Stressing the Chair’s leadership role, the Guide sets out four essential compass points to help Chairs stay focused: clarity of purpose; cohesive board; constructive relationships; and considered decision-making.

The compass has been drawn in response to five fatal flaws that appear to recur in boards:

  1. Lack of leadership – avoiding rather than facing difficulties and key decisions
  2. Unclear purpose – failing to agree for what and for whom the organisation works
  3. An incoherent team – trustees not knowing each other well enough to build trust and work cohesively
  4. Destructive relationships – personal animosities tainting the atmosphere
  5. Poor decision-making – not being persistent and thorough in making the big decisions


Association Chair and co-author Ruth Lesirge commented:

“Being a leader in the charity and non-profit sector has never been more important nor more demanding.  Public expectations grow and grow. Yet our research and conversations show that being a charity Chair can be a tough and surprisingly lonely role.

“This is a very practical Guide.  Understanding what is good practice is only half the challenge – the other half is making it a reality. Our Guide aims to help Chairs to close this governance gap between aspiration and actuality, to the benefit of those they serve and their own satisfaction.”

Co-author and Association interim Executive Director Ros Oakley added:

“When I became Chair of a charity I was looking for advice and support, but it was hard to find. Whether you are new or highly experienced sometimes you need reassurance that you are on the right track – and that’s what the Compass is for – to help you navigate your way.

“Our ambition has been to create a guide that is grounded in practice but aspirational in nature. The Association’s trustees have seen plenty of good practice by Chairs that we share in this guide – but we’ve never met a perfect Chair who manages to do it all!”


The printed Guide will be distributed free to members (or £25 for non-members) and can be downloaded for free at


For more information contact:


Ruth Lesirge, Chair, Association of Chairs, 07971 109248

Ros Oakley, interim Executive Director, 07963 737854

John Williams, Vice Chair, 07776 184554


On Tuesday 21st, Ruth, Ros and John will be available up to 2pm and from 6pm, in central London and later at the Mansion House.


About the Association of Chairs

The Association of Chairs is a registered charity set up by Chairs, former Chairs and governance specialists, to provide support, learning and networking for Chairs and Vice Chairs of charities and other non-profit organisations. Its mission is to bring Chairs together to help ensure that their organisations are better led, better governed and more effective in meeting their chosen aims and objects.  Its developing programme includes speaker events, seminars, technical briefings, a monthly e-newsletter, and research and intelligence.  A mentoring programme is planned for 2015.


About the authors…

Ruth Lesirge has 35 years’ experience of work within the public and third sectors. She is an experienced voluntary sector leader, previously Chief Executive of both a national welfare services charity for older people and a policy and action research foundation addressing mental health and learning disability. Ruth is a trustee of London Film School and Bishopsgate Institute. She is a former Vice Chair of ACEVO. Ruth is a co-founder of the Association of Chairs and became its Chair in September 2014.

Rosalind Oakley has 25 years’ experience in leadership, management and policy roles in the sector and as a consultant to non-profit organisations. She is currently a principal consultant with Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness where she has a particular focus on governance.  Ros served as Chair of the board at Charities Evaluation Services from 2010 to 2013.  She is a co-founder and currently interim Executive Director of the Association.


Ruth and Ros have worked together on a number of governance projects including co-authorship of the Good Practice in Trustee Recruitment toolkit, running a mentoring scheme for Chairs for the Governance Hub, developing an online board appraisal toolkit for the website KnowHowNonProfit and helping to deliver the Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness Board development programme for Help the Hospices (now Hospices UK) – which entailed working with 63 different hospice boards.


The Association of Chairs is a registered charity: 1154293