These are all statements I have made throughout my career, and that I have heard echoed from my peers in nonprofit leadership. And that’s a problem! Each of these statements point to an unspoken issue that should concern a board of directors. Ignoring those unspoken issues now might be setting you up for problems down the road.
Unfortunately, too often these kinds of statements are welcomed and even encouraged by board members. Boards often find reassurance in knowing that they have someone at the helm that’s dedicated to their mission. Additionally, they like the idea of saving money while doing great work. But they are, in fact, red flags that board members should be concerned about.
So, how do you identify the optimal leadership model for your nonprofit?
Trying to determine where the board ends and the ED begins is one of the most common issues that organizations struggle with (and a main reason why they bring us in to help!) because every organization handles executive responsibilities differently, and some nonprofits have historically had an unhealthy division of duties that influences their perspective on this issue.
Broadly speaking, the Board is responsible for strategy and governance while the Executive Director is responsible for implementation and management. However, both should work in partnership to support each other’s roles, building respect and trust to leverage each other’s strengths effectively. There is no hard line where one ends and the other begins, but there are spheres where each tends to operate.
Nonprofits that do not manage financial, environmental, economic, social, and political risk will open themselves up to significant damage to the organization (if not downright failure) when the unexpected happens. Organizations that only have a reactive response to risk cannot weather adversity in the same way that proactive organizations can.
If you conducted a risk assessment right now, what would it reveal?
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