Who is Running Your Organization?

Who is really running your organization, your board or your executive director?

Experienced executive directors come to an organization with a wide variety of skills and much knowledge that well positions them to run the day-to-day affairs of non-profit organizations.

Volunteer board members typically have a wide range of skills related to their day jobs, past or present, as well as skills and knowledge garnered from personal interests.  It is unusual for any one board member to possess the skills necessary to perform the function of the executive director unless they have done so in that role for another organization.

Boards generally fit into one of two categories, a hands-on board or a policy management board.  Hands-on boards involve themselves directly, to a certain extent, in the day to day business of the organization.  This can work well or it can be a disaster. It works well if the organization maintains excellent communication lines and all members of the board and all employees understand the roles and responsibilities of each individual doing the work of the organization.  This offers an unparalleled opportunity for excellent collaborative action; however, with so many moving parts, it can be challenging to achieve this level of synchronicity.

Policy management boards typically set the direction for the organization, put into place the necessary policies and procedures for the organization to run efficiently, and hire and oversee the work of an executive director who is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Together, a well-educated board and a competent executive director can work wonders for the non-profit organization. To be clear, it is the board that is in charge of the organization. The executive director is a professional senior staff person who the board hires to manage the affairs of the organization. At all times, the executive director answers to the board and serves at the discretion of the board.

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