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Board DevelopmentNonprofit BoardsNonprofit Leadership

Building Healthy Board and Executive Director Partnerships

By January 6, 2023No Comments

The relationship between the Board and the Executive Director can be somewhat tenuous. The Executive Director is responsible for and “in the know” about the day-to-day operations; but, the Board, a peripheral entity, oversees the Executive Director and must rely on them to convey information about the organization. Like all relationships, it’s complicated.

Fortunately, relationships can be developed so that a true partnership emerges—one that is healthy and forms the basis for a strong, vibrant organization.

It is important for the Executive Director and members of the Board (at least the Board President) have regular communications outside of the board meetings. Scheduling regular meetings throughout the month provides the opportunity to stay updated, discuss emerging issues/challenges, and nurture trusting relationships. Since both are busy people, having standing meetings will be helpful.

Since the pandemic three years ago, there has been a move toward zoom or phone call meetings. While these forms of communication have their place and have been valuable, nothing can take the place of a face-to-face meeting. For this reason, plan to have at least one meeting per month in person.

Even when there does not seem to be any necessary updates, it is important to go ahead and have the meeting. This helps to develop the relationship, the partnership. Since part of the board’s role is to support the Executive Director in his or her work, having time to talk helps to ensure the Executive Director feels “heard”  and supported.

Sometimes the Executive Director and the Board President may not naturally “click.” In other words, their personalities clash or there is just some reason why they do not get along. It is important in these cases for both parties to make a commitment to working together to ensure the best interests of the organization are recognized.

Even so, there may be times when there is conflict between the two individuals. In these cases, it is important that each understands the role of the other. It may be helpful to review the job descriptions of each and to clarify any confusion. Executive Directors and Board Presidents have both separate and shared tasks related to the organizational operations and governance. It is ok to debate the job descriptions and revise them if necessary.

Be open-minded!

Both the Board of Directors and the Executive Director have important but different jobs within the organization. Growth in the organization leads to a thriving organization. To be truly in growth mode requires having a healthy relationship between the Executive Director and the Board of Directors.

Are you struggling in this area? Send us an email, we will be happy to work with you to build a foundation of healthy relationships.

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