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They are volunteers, too!
Look here for information and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~ July 2005 ~ Topics

Is There a Right Board Model for My Organization?
The Policy Governance Board

Last month we discussed what I call the "traditional board" which views the board and executive director as partners. The hardest task of the board in this model is maintaining a balance between rubber stamping the executive director's recommendations or, at the other end of the spectrum, trying to micromanage the staff. The latter is the executive director's job.

This month, let's look at the policy governance board. I find this title a little misleading because all boards, whatever their model, make policy and govern. However, in this usage it means the board governs through policies and delegates management to the executive director and his/her staff.

For success with this model, the organization must have adequate staff to meet its mission and priorities. This model gives the executive director authority to fulfill those ends as circumscribed by limits that the board articulates. The board speaks to the ED with one voice. There usually are no board standing committees with the exception of an audit committee and an occasional ad-hoc task force.

  • Strengths: The board focuses on the big picture--the ends--and avoids the trivial. The executive director's actions are limited by board policies, and the executive director is responsible and accountable for all management.
  • Weaknesses: The board may lose touch with operations and give too much authority to the executive director. The board can neglect to develop policies in time to avoid problems they never envisioned. The board must be willing to take time to make sure the executive director is acting responsibly by having, for example, an active audit committee and keeping abreast of the accomplishment of outcomes (ends). Boards with inadequate staff, either in number or in ability, should not follow this model.

Policy governance boards, like all boards, must focus on ends (their mission and strategic goals) and honor the legal requirements for boards, such as providing a system of monitoring and evaluation of operations. They must be active, attend meetings, demand program outcome evaluation, avoid conflicts of interest, help with succession planning and be involved in advocacy and resource development.

Other good sources for information on nonprofits, boards and committees:

Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com.

See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Member’s Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today, and Passionate Volunteerism.
Board Member's Guide Image Leading Volunteers Book Image Passionate Volunteerism Book link to bookstore

Jeanne H. Bradner

Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today and Passionate Volunteerism. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

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