BOARDS AND COMMITTEES
They are volunteers, too!
~ May 2006 ~ Topic
Board and ED: It's a Partnership
CompassPoint research group and the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation recently completed a survey of nonprofit executive directors. The survey showed that 75% of the executive directors (EDs) believe they will leave their current jobs in 5 years. They say they are unhappy with their boards and with their funding sources (particularly foundations). Many (65%) say they feel "personally supported by their boards" but they are frustrated by the lack of engagement on the part of the boards and the demands of foundations which are unwilling to give general operating support.
As someone who has served on both sides of the executive director/board member equation, I have great respect for it and believe the there should be "creative tension" between the two. I stress the word "creative"an action word.
This means, for example, that EDs must educate their boards to their responsibilities by providing board training. Too many EDs regard their boards only as fund raisers without getting them involved and convinced of the reasons more money is needed. No one wants to be loved just for his/her money!
Through the strategic planning process, Board and ED need to participate together in deciding the priorities to be achieved and funded. Boards need to be encouraged to take ownership. They need to feel passionately about the mission (and so must the ED).
On the other side, Boards need to empower and not ignore, overwork or micromanage their ED. They need to evaluate the ED yearly and reward the ED financially and emotionally as generously as deserved. They need to exercise their role of oversight as a partner with the ED, not as a suspicious police force (if things are that bad, the ED probably does need to quit).
Thus, the relationship can be creative and open. The
Board is not always right, but, then, neither is the ED!
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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