The executive director needs a positive relationship with his or her board chair, because these two individuals must work in tandem for the health of the nonprofit.
An important responsibility of the chair is to serve as a liaison between the full board and the administrator. It takes time and effort on the part of the nonprofit executive to ensure this relationship is a strong one, because you get very little or no say in who becomes the board’s leader. That is the board’s job.
The first step is to make sure that your board chair knows his role. I recommend discussing a board chair job description with your new chair any time officer rotation occurs. Key points to cover in the chair’s job description include:
- Take charge of board meetings.
- Begin and end the meeting on time.
- Facilitate discussion.
- Keep the board focused on agenda items.
- Ensure board members have the information necessary to make good decisions.
- Schedule regular and special meetings of the board.
- Work as a team with the executive director.
- Prepare the meeting agenda; plan for any special issues.
- Meet and communicate regularly with the CEO.
- Demonstrate support for the executive director.
- Ensure the board gives the administrator an annual evaluation.
- Foster teamwork.
- Know the skills, talents and special interests of all board members.
- Ensure board members understand their role and responsibilities; participate in the orientation of new board members.
- Encourage board members to get to know one another.
- Help set direction for the nonprofit.
- Ensure that the board engages in strategic planning work when the chair and administrator prepare a board work calendar for the year.
- Ensure the board regularly reviews and updates its policies.
- Represent the organization.
- Appear on behalf of the nonprofit when requested.
- Speak for the board when required.
- Maintain visibility and accessibility.
The importance of communication cannot be overemphasized in this relationship. The executive director needs to set up a schedule for regular communication that works for his board chair.
This can be accomplished through a weekly breakfast meeting, for example, or it might be through regular telephone contact. It’s important for the chair to select the means of communication that works for her. Then, do your best to stick to the plan of attack for communication so that it becomes habit for the both of you.
Sincerely, Jeff Stratton, Editor