What’ this about?

Your TMO constitution says that you have officers. These are usually the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. Other officers may include deputies for these (such as a vice chair) and any special officer roles you decide to create (such a minutes secretary or membership officer). The chair may be called chairperson, chairman, chairwoman or simply chair.

Your constitution says how officers are elected or appointed. Probably the most common arrangement is that all are appointed by the Board or committee, and that the chair must be a tenant, but sometimes the chair is elected at the AGM. In some cases no chair is elected and each meeting elects someone just to chair that particular meeting, though this is not recommended since chairing is a skill which usually grows with experience. In other cases the same person remains in office for many years – which may  opportunities are missed to attract and train new officers.

The constitution expects your TMO to have officers because each has a special task which is essential to the proper running of your organisation. In brief these are:

  • The chair controls meetings. He/she see that all items are considered, decisions are clearly made after the right amount of discussion and  that meetings end in time having completed the business on the agenda

  • The secretary works with the chair and sees that the agenda is sent out, minutes are kept and agreed, and letters are considered and answered. He/she keeps essential records such as a register of members

  • The treasurer keeps track of the money, provides reports to the committee or Board and makes sure accounts are kept in the form required

A ‘role description’ lists in more detail the jobs each one is to do. This may be accompanied by a ‘personal description’ listing the personal qualities and skills needed for the role.

The committee or Board is always responsible for managing the TMO business. Officers are there to serve it and help it do this work, not to take it over. Officers only act with the authority given by the committee or Board.

Each of these officer roles requires some specialist skills. You should be able to find local sources of training in each of the main officer roles, provided for community and voluntary groups. There are also national training programmes for tenants available from time to time. 

It is essential to have a list of the tasks that the officers are supposed to do (their 'role description'). This ensures that, when they are elected or appointed, their duties are clear.

It is not essential to have a ‘personal description’ but this may help in finding and preparing the right people.
As well as role descriptions for each officer, you can usefully include a role description for committee or Board members. This will repeat many of the points also found in the Code of Conduct.