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Today we look at the fifth in our series of posts on a variety of styles and types of boards and committees often found in nonprofits and religious institutions. In this series, we will look at four common types, and one variation on a type:
- All-volunteer working board
- Working board with staff
- Multiple working boards with staff system
- Advisory board
- Governing board
While these are not the only structures out there, they are very common and most likely to be encountered by steward leaders who engage with the organizations they govern. As leaders who want to “do good while doing well,” steward leaders can benefit from a deeper understanding of the different types of common governing structures.
In this series, we will use the term board throughout for clarity. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that many names are often in play (particularly committee), but other, more institution- or industry-specific names are prolific.
Boards, to one degree or another, represent the organization to its members, stakeholders, constituents, and to the State. They are designed to make decisions on behalf of the organization, to the degree permitted by the articles of organization and/or bylaws, constitution, operating agreements, the laws of the organization's state or country, or other constitutive documents.
Today's board is the Governing Board. While all the other types of boards are common in a variety of organizations, the Governing Board has largely become the standard for most organizations with a staff.
- Clear differentiation between governance (board) roles and the work of the organization's mission carried out through staff
- Typically hires one staff person who, in turn, hires others to carry out the organization's mission as defined by the board
- Board is policy-oriented, rather than hands-on-work oriented.
- Can work with any size of organization where staff is differentiated from the board
- Board's purpose is driving toward the organization's purpose within its financial and values constraints
The Governing Board is a good design for:
- Organizations with defined governance and staffing
- High-impact organizations
- Organizations not dominated by a founder or staff person
- Organizations with well-trained, high-capacity boards
The Governing Board is a poor design for:
- Organizations with no staff
- Organizations dominated by a founder or staff member (these become "rubber stamp" boards, or enter into push-pull with the dominant person)
Pitfalls of the Governing Board model:
- Requires clarity and differentiation of staff and board roles
- If board is weak, then staff will dominate (this is true of all the models, nevertheless)
- Most nonprofits and elder-run religious organizations
This board is most analogous to a standard corporation setup where a board representing shareholders hires a CEO to run the company and then the CEO hires all others needed to operate the company.
Design Group International has compiled a resource outlining all five governance types in this series. Get the e-book today by clicking the button below.
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