Internal Structures

Once you have made a decision on your overall external structure, there is an infinite range of internal structures to choose from. This means deciding on who reports to whom, whether there should be different ‘departments’ or ‘teams’, whether staff (if any) and volunteers ultimately report to a single person at the head of the organisation, or whether there is more than one person responsible for managing the day to day activities.

As you grow, you may have different sections or departments, based on geography, function, service or some other criteria. You need to plan for such changes...

Some of the points you need to consider are:

  • You should decide what structure best meets the needs of your organisation now, bearing in mind that you will probably need to change this structure as your organisation develops.
  • Looking at the structures of other organisations will help, but in the end you need a structure that suits your organisation.
  • You need to consider whether you wish to have a structure based on a management committee or board which broadly speaking runs the organisation on behalf of the members.
  • Alternatively you may wish to have a ‘flatter’ structure based on consensus building and greater participation by the members.
  • If you have members, how wide a membership do you want? Remember that you will need to strike a balance between maintaining a degree of continuity and at the same time allowing for new blood to come into the organisation.
  • At all times, try to keep your structures as clear and simple as possible. For example if you are a membership organisation, you may need different forms of membership, such as full, associate and honorary members with different voting rights. However, unless this is absolutely necessary, keep it simple, with one type of membership with equality of voting rights.
  • As you grow, you may have different sections or departments, based on geography, function, service or some other criteria. You need to plan for such changes. Structures designed for smaller organisations are unlikely to be able to deal with a wider scenario that may involve local branches, semi-autonomous projects within large organisations, consortia made up of several organisations, and so on.