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Supporting your leadership team and trustees through closure

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Closing an organisation will require courage and commitment from an organisation’s leadership.

Good leadership, clear communication and providing the appropriate support to staff and volunteers are key ingredients in closing well.

Define roles and responsibilities

Closing a voluntary organisation will require trustees and the executive, be they paid staff or volunteers, to work well together. You should have a shared understanding of who is responsible for doing what and when. Trustees, staff and volunteers may have to take on different and or additional roles.

To help manage expectations it’s important that everyone is honest and realistic about how much they can do and when. Trustees need to be aware of when they are taking on an operational role and consider how this may impact lines of accountability.

Depending on the complexity of your organisation, you will need to address a number of issues in closing your organisation. Take the time to support those leading the process to understand what is involved. Don’t assume that everyone knows about the administrative process and understands the legal framework.

To understand tasks you may need to complete to close well, visit our page on planning for closure.

Agree a code of conduct

It may be helpful to agree a code of conduct. This will set out what behaviours you expect from each other and may set out how you plan to resolve any conflict.

You may already have one in place which you can refer to. It’s often a useful point of reference if disagreements do arise.

You can adapt our code of conduct template for trustees.

Communicate clearly and consistently

Communication both internally and externally will need to be managed with care and sensitivity. Your messaging needs to be clear and consistent.

To help with this, develop a communications plan setting out:

  • your key messages
  • your audiences
  • timeline
  • communication formats
  • roles and responsibilities.

Initially it’s likely that the decision and plans to close will be discussed by only a few key people including trustees and the executive. However, you’ll need to plan how and when you communicate your message about closure to other stakeholder groups. For example beneficiaries, funders and partner organisations.

When informing beneficiaries and partner organisations, consider who would be the best people to share the message and which format is most appropriate. Sometimes an initial phone call or short email followed up with details can allow people to process and accept the news.

The format and content of your message to these groups will need to be tailored, based on individual relationships. Remember that this information may be shared more widely so always stick to your key messages and adapt them depending on the audience and format.

You can find more information on planning your closure communications.

Access external support

It’s important to recognise that those leading the process will also be affected by the decision to close and will need support too.

You should consider at the outset how you’re going to support each other and what additional support individuals may require. You need to be mindful of everyone’s feelings and make time to support each other.

For those leading the process, additional support such as an external mentor may be helpful.

If the chair and chief executive relationship is strong, this will serve the organisation well in the process. They can offer support to each other and role model appropriate behaviours to others.

If there are known difficulties in the relationship, it may be worth having a conversation about how these difficulties are going to be managed. The Association of Chairs’ ‘A Question of Balance’ guide can help with this.

Last reviewed: 06 July 2023

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 July 2023

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