Family Life

This case study shows how a strong board and good governance are helping Family Life to achieve its mission and build a sustainable future.

The challenge of responding to change and having a strong board

Family Life faces a number of new challenges. These include:

  • Expanding services into Casey and Cardinia
  • dealing with a wider variety of cultures and backgrounds
  • facing uncertainty around future government and community funding
  • fostering staff development and job security.

A stable, effective board allows Family Life to respond to challenges like these constructively.

“We go into new areas in a manageable, affordable way. We explore options to partner with existing local community organisations. We are able to apply what we have learnt in other areas, but we know and expect to fine-tune our approach when undertaking a new project.” Len Gill, President

Family Life video

Strong board underpins growth for Family Life

Community service organisation Family Life knows the importance of a strong board, and has worked hard to achieve a balance of experienced and new board members.

Experienced board members help to maintain the organisation’s corporate knowledge, while new members bring fresh skills and insights. Together, they provide leadership for the staff and volunteers who make up the Family Life team.

“The board focuses on building a depth of leadership within Family Life. Leaders are able to communicate their vision, explain reasons for change, lead by example and thus engage the staff.” Len Gill, President

The board’s key role

The board supports Family Life by:

  • Reviewing, refining and approving strategy developed by the Chief Executive Officer and management
  • holding the Chief Executive Officer and management accountable for the implementation of that strategy
  • taking on a mentoring role and is directly involved with fundraising.

Family Life seeks out board members who can offer diverse skills, experience and knowledge to the organisation.

“You need to work out what skills you need for the organisation. We try and have a mix of financial acumen, commercial experience, and legal knowledge and, of course, experience in community services.” Len Gill, President

Strategies to improve board efficiency

Family Life has built a strong board by offering training and ensuring a controlled, gradual turnover of board members. These strategies ensure the board provides effective oversight and guidance, while allowing Family Life’s Chief Executive Officer and Management Team to administer the organisation at a more detailed level.

Each board member serves a set term and these are staggered among different members. This provides time to recruit new members and spreads knowledge among directors. All directors receive training in their role. 

“We have an induction program for all new board members, where they learn about the organisation and how to contribute to good governance. We utilise existing resources out there to help new members understand the role of the board and how it is different from management.” Len Gill, President

Managing staff effectively

Family Life has been applying the Community Sector Workforce Capability Framework for several years. It acts as a benchmark for staff performance and shows gaps in capability, allowing the Chief Executive Officer and Management to identify and recommend areas for development.

“It allowed us to be informed on the needs of staff for their development and support the commitment of resources into that development. It was good for staff and good for the organisation.” Len Gill

About Family Life

Family Life is a community service organisation that supports vulnerable and disadvantaged families, with the aim of stabilising and transforming their lives for the better.

Family Life has provided family support services since 1970 and offers counselling, mediation, mental health services, educational services, outreach, case coordination, and advocacy.

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