What is the role of honorary officers?

The Management Committee will need some of its members to take on special roles to help it function effectively. These members are described as office-bearers or honorary officers.

Honorary officers generally include a Chairperson, Secretary and a Treasurer. Some organisations have additional honorary officers. These may include Vice-Chair, Vice Secretary, Press Officer and so forth. The organisation's constitution should indicate how honorary officers are to be elected or selected. It is important to check your governing document for details and ensure these terms are adhered to.

The role of the officers may include taking the lead in preparing for Management Committee meetings (e.g. agendas, information papers, hiring venues, etc).

Unless the Management Committees has explicitly delegated decision-making powers to the honorary officers, they should act in an advisory capacity and must take care to report their activities fully to the Management Committee.

Check your governing document for details of how honorary officers should be selected and elected.

All honorary officers should be clear regarding the function of their role. Therefore, it is good practice to have written role descriptions. Use the links provided to access further details regarding each role.

Role of the chairperson

Chairing is a key role on any Management Committee. The Chairperson ensures that the Management Committee functions properly, that there is full participation during meetings, that all relevant matters are discussed and that effective decisions are made and carried out. The role of a Chairperson can be time consuming, involving work between meetings, external representation of the organisation, and work with staff. The Chairperson usually takes on direct management responsibility for the most senior staff member (the chief officer). Chairing a large organisation requires diplomatic and leadership skills of a high level.

More on the role of the chairperson 

Role of the secretary

The role of the Secretary depends on the type and size of the organisation. In organisations without paid staff, the secretary often takes minutes, deals with correspondence and keeps records. In organisations with paid staff, these functions are often performed by staff.

If the organisation is a limited company, you may also be required to appoint a Company Secretary who is responsible for ensuring that the organisation fulfils the requirements of company law.  Since April 2008, this is no longer an automatic requirement as long as it is not specified within your organisation's governing documents. However, you will need to advise Companies House if you are not appointing a Company Secretary.

More on the role of the secretary
Role description for the secretary
Role description for the company secretary

Role of the treasurer

The overall role of the Treasurer is to maintain an overview of the organisation's financial status and to ensure that proper financial records and procedures are maintained.
In small charities without paid staff the Treasurer may take a greater role in the day-to-day finances of the organisation. It is important to note that final responsibility for financial matters always rests with the management committee as a whole.

More on the role of the treasurer
Role description for the treasurer

Role of vice-chair

The Vice-Chair acts for the Chair when she/he is not available and undertakes assignments at the request of the Chair. To ensure continuity every organisation should ensure that the chair has a deputy who can assume their responsibility and is familiar with their work should a sudden absence occur.