While the lines of authority can blur easily, the roles of an organization's board, staff, and volunteers are very distinct. Each serves a unique and specific function. Understanding and adhering to your job is critical to healthy operations.
Let's start with the board.
The board represents the interests of the community the nonprofit serves and holds ownership over the corporation on the community's behalf. The board serves as guardians of the organization's assets. They fulfills a governing duty through strategic planning, monitoring, and evaluation of outcomes. The board sets policy as well as hires, advises, and fires (as needed) the executive director.
An individual board member participates as part of the team to accomplish the organization's mission. Board members should represent various community perspectives to the organization and represent the organization in the community. However, individual board members have no authority or decision-making power except as granted by the full board through bylaws, board policy, or board vote. All power of the board is joint and collective, existing only when acting together.
What is the purpose of committees?
Committees assist the board in governing more efficiently. Committees should be used to investigate, deliberate, and analyze special issues on behalf of the board. A committee is not intended to do staff work, but could help review staff-prepared information in detail and make high-level recommendations to the board.
What duties does the executive director fulfill?
An executive director manages. The board delegates all business operations to the executive director including management of assets; hiring, training, promoting, disciplining, and firing employees; establishing and maintaining infrastructures, operating procedures and policies, as well as programs and services necessary to implement the board's strategic plan. No individual board member or committee has any authority over the executive director, nor does the board have authority over any staff member--other than the executive director. It is not the board's role or responsibility to do the work of the executive director or staff.
What is the function of hired staff?
While the board governs and the executive director manages, hired staff is responsible for carrying out tasks the executive director determines necessary to implement the board's strategic plan. The staff may be large or small depending on the size of the organization and its programs and services. It may be comprised of employees, contractors, volunteers, or a combination of these.
Finally, what is the role of a volunteer?
An organization's staffing function may be fulfilled in whole, or in part, by volunteers. When a board member chooses to volunteer, he or she must recognize that each position carries entirely different responsibilities. Essentially, the board member must learn to wear two "hats." As a volunteer fulfilling a staffing role, the board member has no authority to govern or delegate. Rather, certain duties are delegated to the volunteer, and the volunteer reports to the appropriate staff member(s), not to the board.
If an organization is comprised entirely of volunteers, it is likely that committees might be formed to implement the board's strategic plan and policies. It is only under these circumstances that a committee executes the kind of work generally reserved for staff. However, it should be expected that as the organization grows and becomes an employer, committees and their assigned work would change.
Source: Nonprofit Leadership Solutions