| BOARDS AND COMMITTEES:
They are volunteers, too!
~ May 2005 ~ Topics
Is There a Right Board Model for My Organization?
Lately I have had several people ask me what board model they should use: policy, governance or working? It's a surprising question to me because, of course, all boards have to make policy, govern and do some work. However, at different stages of organizational development, the board can be more involved in one role than the others. This month I'll talk about the all-volunteer organization, and in the following months talk about the organization that has modest staff and an organization that is well staffed.
An all-volunteer board does a great deal of "working" because anything that is going to get done will be done by the board volunteers and other volunteers they recruit. However, this in no way releases the board from its governance and policy making role. The board still has to make sure that the organization is acting as a responsible nonprofit, filling out the right reports for the government, adhering to its mission, handling its finances well and justifying the public trust. In addition, it needs to plan for the future and bring new potential leadership into the organization.
Occasionally an all-volunteer organization will set up a separate "policy board" to discuss and suggest policies to present to the entire board. The danger in this is that even though the board is working hard, it still should have a role in determining the policies and internalizing them. Sometimes this dual system can lead to uninvolved acceptance of anything the policy board suggests.
All volunteer organizations work hard but they need to remember their governance obligations as well as their "to do" list. These can be the boards that spend too much time discussing the color of the napkins for the benefit and too little time discussing their mission and the most important ways to implement it.
Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com.
See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Members Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today, and Passionate Volunteerism.
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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