Board governance – you either love it or you don’t! Whether you love it or not, it is a critically important role of your board of directors. What that role looks like depends on where your board and your organization is in terms of a non-profit’s lifecycle. We addressed this in Issue 1 Volume 2 of Board Notes and provided a guide to assess what stage your organization is in. Mature boards may be establishing guidelines for the CEO as to what they can and cannot do without board approval, and focusing on strategic direction for the organization. If you are on a board with no staff, you may be actually performing the work of the organization. And there is a wide range in between those two.

It’s also important to differentiate between management and board governance. Over the years I have had CEO’s share with me that their board leadership is too “in the weeds.” One of the biggest challenges for a board member is truly understanding their role and responsibility. Management/staff should be dedicated to day-to-day operations and delivering upon the mission of the organization, while the role of the board is to focus on determining the direction of the organization both in the long and short term. Board governance includes strategic planning, establishing the vision, financial planning, and the recruitment and over site of board members.

It is also important to be an active board member when it comes to board governance. Most CEO’s don’t want a board who will agree with them on everything brought to them, but rather, would prefer a board that is engaged and participates in spirited discussion, asking questions, and adding commentary or insight about a topic. It is these discussions that allows the board and the CEO to think bigger, and deeper for their organizations about its long- term health and how best to deliver on its mission.

The health of the organization depends on boards bringing unique skill sets and knowledge while keeping the best interest of the nonprofit foremost in their mind. A healthy board has a diversity of viewpoints, and expertise which helps the organization stay on course, and not be detracted from the goals set forth. 

Thank you for Volunteering, and Happy Governing!

Karlene Grabner
Director of Donor Services