For organizations with staff, operating with clear roles and responsibilities between the board and staff strengthens relationships, minimizes interpersonal conflicts, and focuses everyone on the mission. This relationship may change throughout the nonprofit’s lifecycle. For example, when a nonprofit first starts out, the board may have roles that function in a capacity similar to staff. As the organization grows and brings on an executive director, daily management is delegated to the executive director.

The board must understand the difference between board and staff functions. Examining the relationship between the board and staff is important. Assess if there are adequate opportunities for interaction, and whether the interactions help or hinder the work.

Approval of personnel policies that cover job classification, compensation, evaluation, and reporting are approved by the board, and the board makes certain all policies meet local, state, and federal regulations and laws. The board provides staff direction, support, and accountability through plans, policies, review of programs, and volunteering when appropriate. If approached intentionally, receiving advice and feedback from board members can be a valued part of building and maintaining communication and trust amongst staff and board.

The relationship between the board and the executive director is a particularly crucial partnership to understand and nurture. The board hires, supports, supervises, and reviews the executive director. The board should review the executive director annually and invest in their development. Regular and intentional communication between the executive director and board helps to ensure the alignment of staff and board. The executive director serves as a bridge to the organization’s daily management and happenings. In addition, the executive director keeps the board informed on activity progress, opportunities, and challenges. Close connection between the executive director and board, in particular the chair or president, helps everyone maintain the ability to make informed decisions. Also, the board needs to understand the organizational culture the executive director is building and actively partner to build an aligned board culture.

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