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Today we look at the second 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
Last week, we looked at the All-Volunteer Working 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 Working Board with Staff. We will look at its variant, the multiple working board with staff system, in a later post.
- Task oriented
- Hires staff person(s) to increase the organization's operating capacity
- Staff has specific portfolio requiring time and/or expertise beyond volunteers' capacity; volunteers have other tasks and govern and guide organization
The Working Board with Staff is a good design for:
- Small organizations with clearly-defined task roles requiring ongoing time and expertise beyond board meetings
- Organizations with strong coordination and governance within board and strong work ethic of volunteers
- Organizations designed to be run by volunteers who do the work, assisted by hired staff
- Organizations with growing capacity
- Organizations needing more accountability than a non-staff working board can manage
The Working Board with Staff is a poor design for:
- Large organizations
- Multi-staff settings
- Organizations where governance beyond management of status quo is required
- Organizations where mission / vision is not clearly defined (or bought into by all)
- Organizations where board members are not clear peers or equals
- Organizations that are changing in size or scope
Pitfalls of a Working Board with Staff:
- Growing passivity of volunteers
- Unclear accountability if individual members can make requests of staff
- Completely conflated governance and execution of work
- Small nonprofits
- Small, single-staff churches or other religious institutions
- Associations or Federations with a staff person representing the whole
This board is most closely analogous to a partnership board in a business or corporate setting who have hired a staff person or persons to manage day-to-day operations outside the basic purview or portfolio of the partners themselves.
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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