Working with a Board of Directors

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As any nonprofit director will tell you, it’s not just employees with whom it is essential to maintain a positive working relationship. To function as an effective executive in a nonprofit organization, you must learn to balance your day-to-day leadership duties with your accountability to the board of directors. This chapter will offer strategies to maintain a positive relationship with your board members by focusing on organizing your meeting agendas and clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the board.

Managing your board of directors is critical to the success of your nonprofit.

The proper balance can only be achieved when both the board and the executive director have clearly defined their roles and responsibilities, and when meetings are structured in an efficient and logical fashion. Some initial degree of tension or disconnect between the executive director and board of directors is natural, but taking steps to address any challenges or concerns will instill mutual trust and strengthen the organization’s operational capacity.

Click to open interactivity An organized meeting agenda can maximize board meeting productivity.

An organized meeting agenda can maximize board meeting productivity.

Download the customizable Board Meeting Agenda Template to get an idea of how to structure your meetings with the board of directors.

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The line between who is responsible for what is often unclear to both executive directors and board members.

Some directors or board members may not have prior experience in their role, while others may have held similar positions but must learn how to adapt to the unique needs of this particular organization. You may want to review your job description, as well as work on developing a board member orientation process that is easy to understand and follow.  You should also make certain that all board members are provided with detailed descriptions of their legal obligations and the specific needs of your organization. It may prove helpful with this step to obtain BoardSource’s Legal Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards or refer to Free Management Library's Sample Job Descriptions for Members of Boards of Directors.”

Click to open interactivity Try gauging your understanding of the differing responsibilities of the board and the executive director.

Try gauging your understanding of the differing responsibilities of the board and the executive director.

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