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Executive Director and Nonprofit Board: How Do They Work Together?

A nonprofit organization is composed of the board and the executive director—the former comes up with plans while the latter turns them into a reality. To run a successful organization, both parties must work together and foster a good relationship. Here’s how you can make a strong and productive relationship between the board and the […]

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A nonprofit organization is composed of the board and the executive director—the former comes up with plans while the latter turns them into a reality. To run a successful organization, both parties must work together and foster a good relationship.

Here’s how you can make a strong and productive relationship between the board and the executive director:

Establish the duties and responsibilities

To ensure that the people behind your organization maintain a professional and productive work ethic, both parties must be clear about their duties and responsibilities. One of the reasons why nonprofits don’t grow is because their team lacks a sense of direction. This can be prevented by establishing the duties and responsibilities that are expected from each member.

Below is an overview of the roles of both the executive director and board:

Nonprofit Board Roles

The nonprofit board responsibilities include overseeing and guiding the executive director and the staff. Specifically, they are expected to do the following:

  • Ensure that the organization is operating in accordance with its mission, values, and strategic plans
  • Approve the annual budget and investment policies
  • Ensure the organization’s tax-exempt status and compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Hire or remove the executive director
  • Support fundraising activities and oversee other programs

Executive Director Key Roles

The executive director’s job description is to carry out the programs, policies, and initiatives of the organization. Additionally, the executive director should do the following:

  • Develop the organization’s mission, vision, and values
  • Draft the annual budget, comply with board-approved financial policies
  • Hire and supervise staff
  • Plan and implement programs and fundraising activities to ensure cash flow

Both parties also have shared responsibilities to keep the organization running smoothly. They must work together to develop the strategic plan, fundraising plan, and organization evaluation.

Communicate and share information

An organization will never succeed if its board and executive directors do not communicate with each other properly. Communication is a vital part of every organization because it improves everyone’s workflow, productivity, and decision-making process.

Poor internal communication can hinder your organization’s growth and lead to several problems, such as:

  • Low productivity
  • Poor staff performance
  • Creates distrust and confusion
  • Both parties might feel like they’re not being heard

To help improve the quality of communication within your organization, here are a few tips that you can do:

Create a communication-friendly work environment. Sure, you might have communication tools like Skype, Slack, Zoom, or Messenger, but workplace communication often feels ingenuine. Make sure that everyone can be themselves and feel comfortable while communicating with the team. Everyone should be able to express their feelings, share ideas, and bring up difficult topics with ease.

Schedule weekly team meetings. Every week, set aside at least 30 minutes for a team huddle. Holding constant and more frequent meetings can help you assess where everyone is at and if anyone needs help. 

Ask for feedback. A good executive director takes time to listen to the board members, and vice versa. Both parties should provide feedback on each other’s performance and presentations.

Conduct performance evaluations

Regular performance evaluations remind everyone—whether it’s the executive director or the entire board—what is expected of them in the organization. It helps you keep track of your progress towards your goals, which is especially helpful if you have established KPIs. It also provides insightful information for decision-making. 

The board can develop a rating system for the executive director and the staff. Then, the executive director can monitor the evaluation procedure. Everyone should also be able to respond or comment on the ratings given to them. 

With proper communication, clarity of duties and responsibilities, and regular performance evaluations, both parties can work together harmoniously and productively for the success of the organization.

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